Former US Ambassadors and Reform Jewish Movement Deplore Trump's Pick for Israel Envoy
February 19, 2017
Amir Tibon / Haaretz & Judy Maltz / Haaretz
David Friedman's 'extreme positions' make him 'unqualified for the position of US ambassador to Israel, according to former American envoys to Israel -- Thomas Pickering, Dan Kurtzer, Edward Walker, James Cunningham and William Harrop -- who cite Friedman's financial support of a radical West Bank settlement and his questionable condemnations of prominent US Jewish groups. Israel's Haaretz newspaper proposes 10 questions that Friedman needs to address.
Former US Ambassadors Urge Senate
Not to Confirm Friedman as Trump's Israel Envoy
Amir Tibon / Haaretz
(February 16, 2017) -- Five former US ambassadors to Israel sent a letter on Wednesday to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urging them to reject the nomination of President Trump's candidate for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, because of what they define as his "extreme positions" and because he is "unqualified for the position."
The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Haaretz, is signed by former ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Dan Kurtzer, Edward Walker, James Cunningham and William Harrop - diplomats that have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
The five former ambassadors stated that they "care deeply about Israel" since it is a US ally and a democratic stronghold in the Middle East. Then they explain how they view the duties of the US ambassador to Israel, which they said include strengthening Israel's security and advancing the prospects of peace between Israel and its neighbors. They maintain that these have been bipartisan goals of US foreign policy for decades.
David Friedman, they claim, does not share this view regarding the ambassador's role. The group quoted his position that the two-state solution is "an illusory solution" and his support for settlements in the West Bank. "We urge the committee," they added, to "address the question of whether Mr. Friedman would defend as ambassador the established American view that annexation of West Bank territory, outside the context of an international resolution, would be counterproductive and a violation of international law."
The former senior US diplomats also mentioned Friedman's characterization of the US State Department – his future boss – as anti-Semitic, and his repeated claim that supporters of the left-wing Jewish group J Street are worse than "kapos" – Jews who cooperated with Nazis during the Holocaust.
"These are extreme, radical positions," the letter says, urging the Senators to examine whether Friedman "has the balance and the temperament required to represent the United States as ambassador to Israel."
Finally, the signatories noted that Trump has recently spoken out against the construction of new settlements, saying they could hurt the peace process, and asked whether Friedman could support this kind of policy. They concluded by stating Friedman is, in their eyes, unqualified to be ambassador to Israel.
Full text of letter by five former US ambassadors to Israel urging Senate not to confirm David Friedman
10 Questions US Senators Should Ask David Friedman, Trump's Pick for Israel Envoy
Judy Maltz / Haaretz
(February 12, 2017) -- David Friedman, the US ambassador designate to Israel, is expected to face some tough questioning during the Senate confirmation hearings on his appointment. While those hearings have yet to be scheduled, they are expected to take place within the next few weeks.
Friedman’s views on the Middle East represent a sharp departure from longstanding US State Department policy. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Israel’s settlement movement and rejects the notion of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although the new administration has yet to spell out its position on the issue, the White House said in a statement last week that settlement expansion, while not an impediment to peace, “may not be helpful” to achieving that goal.
Friedman serves as president of a fundraising organization that pumps a few million dollars a year into the radical West Bank settlement of Beit El. A bankruptcy lawyer, he has no experience in foreign diplomacy.
Opposition to his appointment within liberal circles appears to be as much related to matters of style as of substance. Friedman has called members of J Street, the pro-Israel and anti-occupation group, “worse than kapos” (a reference to Jews who collaborated with Nazis) and described the Anti-Defamation League, one of the most prominent Jewish organizations in the United States, as “a bunch of morons.”
Progressive Jewish organization and activists have been lobbying against his appointment, though the chances it will be blocked are small: It could only happen if all the Democrats, as well as at least three Senate Republicans, vote against him.
To facilitate the confirmation process, Haaretz has prepared a list of 10 questions those participating in the confirmation hearings might consider asking Friedman:
1. You are president of an organization that fundraises for Beit El settlement. How much of your own money have you donated to Beit El and does your investment explain your opposition to a two-solution?
2. You own at least one apartment in Jerusalem. Is that the only real estate you own in Israel? Could you list all your properties there and tell us if you own any real estate over the green line?
3. Do you have any children who live in Israel? Have any of them served or intend to serve in the Israeli army? If yes, are you not in conflict of interest as a representative of the US government?
4. Have you ever contributed to the campaigns of Israeli political leaders or political parties? If so, could you specify which leaders and which parties and how much you gave them?
5. Do you believe it is important for Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state?
6. Do you favor Israel’s annexation of the West Bank, and if so, do you believe that Israel can remain a Jewish and democratic state if that happens?
7. As a real estate lawyer, how do you view the new Israeli law that legalizes the expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank?
8. President Trump said that making peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a top priority for him, and referred to this as “the ultimate deal.” What would be your basic principles for such a deal?
9. Palestinians have voiced serious concerns that with your views, you cannot serve as an honest broker in any future peace talks. How do you hope to reassure them otherwise, if at all?
10. Your use of “kapos” and “morons” to berate Jewish organizations raised serious questions about your suitability for a diplomatic role. Do you truly believe you are cut out to serve as an ambassador?
Building Dedicated by Trump's Israel Envoy Was Constructed Illegally on Palestinian Land
Judy Maltz / Haaretz
(February 15, 2017) -- Documents detail David Friedman's connection to a building in the radical settlement of Beit El built in 1999 and slated for demolition, but was never destroyed.
In Unprecedented Step, Reform Jewish Movement
Opposes Trump's Pick for Israel Envoy
Amit Tibon / Haaretz
(February 18, 2017) -- David Friedman lacks both the 'basic qualifications' and 'temperament' required by the position of Israel envoy, the largest Jewish movement in North America says.
Fund headed by Trump's Israel ambassador pumped tens of millions into West Bank settlement
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