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Former US ambassadors to Israel question qualifications of Trump’s new pick
Five former ambassadors to Israel, who served under Democratic and Republican presidents, urge Foreign Relations Committee to seriously weigh nomination of David Friedman, expressing reservations over his declared pro-settlement stance and inflammatory comments, including his labelling former president Obama and entire State Department 'anti-Semitic.'

Five former US ambassadors to Israel said Wednesday that the man President Donald Trump has selected as his pick to represent the US in Israel, David Friedman, holds extreme views and are urging senators to carefully consider his nomination.

 

 

The letter was signed by Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham.

 

The former diplomats said David Friedman has staked out "extreme, radical positions" and has derided the two-state solution as an "illusory" fix for a non-existent problem.

 

David Friedman (Photo: Reuters)
David Friedman (Photo: Reuters)

 

"We care deeply about Israel: an American ally, a stronghold of democracy in the Middle East, and a homeland for the Jewish people," the diplomats' letter read.

 

"We believe the committee should satisfy itself that Mr. Friedman has the balance and the temperament required to represent the United States as ambassador to Israel," they wrote.

 

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday for Friedman's confirmation hearing.

 

Trump, during a White House news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was evasive about endorsing a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

 

The idea of two states would create an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and has been the international community's preferred outcome for nearly two decades.

 

The ambassadors, who served Republican and Democratic presidents, say Friedman accused former president Barack Obama and the entire State Department of anti-Semitism.

 

They say he's also characterized supporters of J Street, a liberal, left-wing Jewish group, as "kapos," in reference to the Jews who cooperated with Nazis during the Holocaust.

 

The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter from the former ambassadors.

 

The son of an Orthodox rabbi, Friedman is a fervent supporter of Israeli settlements, an opponent of Palestinian statehood and staunch defender of the Israeli government.

 

David Friedman with Head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan (Photo: Trump Campaign in Israel)
David Friedman with Head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan

 

The former envoys wrote that Friedman has said he does not believe it would be illegal for Israel to annex the West Bank and has been active in supporting the settler movement.

 

They said the committee should address the question of whether Friedman, if confirmed, would defend the established US position that annexation of West Bank territory, without an international resolution, would be "counterproductive and a violation of international law."

 

"The American ambassador must be dedicated to advancing our country's longstanding bipartisan goals in the region: strengthening the security of the United States and our ally Israel, and advancing the prospects for peace between Israel and its neighbors, in particular the Palestinians," the former ambassadors wrote.

 

"If Israel is to carry on as a democratic, Jewish nation, respected internationally, we see no alternative to a two-state solution."

 

Friedman runs a nonprofit that raises millions of dollars for Beit El, a settlement of religious nationalists near Ramallah. Beit El runs a right-wing news outlet and a yeshiva whose dean has provocatively urged Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to uproot settlers from their homes.

 

Friedman has also waded into the divisive subject of moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a shift favored by conservatives that Trump endorsed during the presidential campaign.

 

Upon being selected by Trump, Friedman said he looked forward to carrying out his duties from "the US embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem."

 

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