Published: Fri, February 17, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Tough Confirmation Hearing for Friedman

Tough Confirmation Hearing for Friedman

- The combative attorney President Donald Trump picked as his ambassador to Israel sought to fix the damage from past attacks on political opponents, telling Congress he deeply regretted using inflammatory language and promised to be "respectful and measured" should he be confirmed.

Throughout the hearing, Trump's statements on Wednesday at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hung over the room.

"Today's hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the nomination of David Friedman to be the next US Ambassador to Israel was, as Senator Menendez suggested, an attempt at 'nomination conversion.' Regardless of today's farcical performance, Friedman's record speaks for itself".

The letter opposing Friedman's nomination was signed by Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham.

Friedman is likely to be confirmed by the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

Before Trump was elected, a string of US presidents, along with the Palestinians and worldwide community, opposed settlements built in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as obstacles to peace.

The former envoys wrote that Friedman has said he does not believe it would be illegal for Israel to annex Yehudah and Shomron and has been active in supporting the Jewish presence there. He also has infuriated many by referring to U.S. Jews who support the liberal pro-Israel advocacy group J Street as "kapos", the Jews who assisted Nazis in concentration camps.

"I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like", Trump said, adding "If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best".

The letter calls on either the president to withdraw the nomination or the Senate to reject Friedman's bid if Trump is unwilling to take such an action. I thought for a while that two states looked like the easier of the two.

At a high-profile White House meeting on Wednesday, Trump abandoned those positions.

On Wednesday, five former USA ambassadors issued a letter saying that Friedman is unqualified and has staked out "extreme, radical positions". He also described USA allies who have joined the fight against the Islamic State as a group of "cowards, freeloaders and hypocrites". But the alternatives appear to offer dimmer prospects for peace, given Palestinian demands for statehood. "Anybody that wants to say the United States doesn't support a two-state solution, that would be an error".

During an exchange with Sen.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, acknowledged that Friedman has said things he did not agree with but said he backed the nominee as qualified, experienced and passionate. He said most Palestinians are "being held hostage by a ruthless regime", a reference to the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized power there in 2007. Two men, minutes apart, stood and shouted pro-Palestinian slogans.

Other protesters sang before being ushered out. He prefaced it with the traditional chant "tekiah" that precedes the blowing of the shofar.

Friedman sat quietly during the disruptions, picking up on his speech from the point he stopped once the hecklers were taken out of the room. "He is a war criminal!"

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