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March 10, 2017 7:26 am

Senate Committee Backs Friedman as Israel Envoy Amid Debate in the Jewish World

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David Friedman, President Donald Trump's pick to serve as the next US envoy to Israel. Photo: Screenshot.

David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as the next US envoy to Israel. Photo: Screenshot. – On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved President Trump’s designated ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, following a groundswell of support from conservative and centrist pro-Israel organizations — and staunch opposition from some liberal Jewish groups.

The full Senate is expected to vote on Friedman’s ambassadorship in the coming days.

A day before its 12-9 vote in favor of Friedman’s appointment, the Foreign Relations Committee received a pro-Friedman letter signed by 17 pro-Israel organizations, including the Zionist Organization of America, the Iron Dome Alliance and the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). The Haym Salomon Center received an updated letter that included 30 organizations, such as the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Congress.

“David Friedman’s views represent the consensus of a clear majority of both Americans and Israelis, yet he’s been the target of the very vocal and radical anti-Israel Jewish left,” said Jeff Ballabon, a pro-Israel activist and an organizer of the letter to Senate committee members.

Some liberal Jewish groups have actively opposed Friedman’s nomination.

“After extensive consideration of his lengthy public record on issues related to Israel and the US-Israel relationship, as well as hearing from Mr. Friedman during his confirmation hearing and a one-on-one private meeting between Mr. Friedman and URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, we oppose the nomination of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel,” the URJ said in a statement.

The progressive lobbying group J Street — which is known for its outspoken support for a two-state solution and criticism of Israeli settlements — said that it “vehemently opposed” Friedman’s nomination. Friedman had said that J Street supporters were “worse than kapos” in a May 2016 op-ed for Israel National News, but later apologized for such rhetoric during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Sarah Stern, the president and founder of EMET, recently described the campaign against Friedman as being “based on the false notion that ‘land for peace’ is the only possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, successive Israeli land withdrawals have not gotten Israel and the Palestinians any closer to the goalpost of peace.”

“Unfortunately, for the last several years, American ambassadors to Israel have also exemplified this profound bias against Israel, and have not gotten us any closer to the goal of establishing peace between the Palestinians and Israelis,” she added. “It is therefore refreshing that President Donald Trump has selected … David Friedman, who does not share the same biases that are so rampant within the State Department.”

Leading Jewish umbrella organizations representing groups across the political spectrum, such as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America, also issued favorable statements regarding Friedman’s nomination.

Countering the sentiments of the URJ, the Coalition of Jewish Values — a rabbinic-led organization that says it “articulates an authentic Jewish perspective on current events” — told the Haym Salomon Center in a statement that it supported Friedman and his views: “Any true compromise must recognize that Jews living in their ancestral homeland are not a ‘threat to peace,’ and must ensure that any new Arab state does not become [a supporter of terrorism].”

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