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Senate Republicans Confirm Friedman Believing He Will Strengthen US-Israel Bonds

posted on: Mar 24, 2017

David Friedman has been a staunch defender of Israeli settlements REUTERS

BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

The Republican-led Senate confirmed President Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, on Thursday. The Senate voted along party lines, 52-46, to confirm Friedman. Democrats, who claimed that the bankruptcy attorney had a history of inflammable remarks, could not block the vote.

Democratic leaders were concerned about Friedman’s fervent support for Israel’s settlements program, which he has been funding for many years. The son of an Orthodox rabbi, Friedman is also stanchly against Palestinian statehood, which has been a significant policy embedded in the U.S. State Department for several decades.

Only two Democrats voted yay, Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Manchin (D-WV). Sen. Menendez said he supported Friedman because “bipartisan support is critical” for American policy towards Israel.

Leading the charge against Friedman was Menendez’s fellow New Jersey Senator, Democrat Cory Booker, who’s office said the confirmation “would damage the prospects of finding a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

As the largest recipient of pro-Israel campaign contributions in 2014, Sen. Booker made it known that his reservations are about David Friedman only, not Israel’s troubling far-right agenda.

“Mr. Friedman has a long history of making degrading and incendiary comments, and attacking seemingly anyone who disagrees with him,” Booker said. “Such a track record would critically wound anyone’s ability to fulfill their duties as an ambassador.”

Friedman sought to use the confirmation hearing in February to apologize for the times he referred to liberal Jews as kapos (a reference to Jews who helped Nazis imprison other Jews during the Holocaust). He also apologized for the offensive comments he made towards former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At the hearing, Friedman pledged to be “respectful and measured” if confirmed.

Arab and Jewish American protesters continuously disrupted the February hearing. However, the activists did not have an affect on the decision made by Senate Republicans, who view this position as one to be filled by a pro-Israel advocate, as opposed to a peace advocate.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Friedman “understands the complexity of the issues at stake for the US and the necessity to support a democratic ally in an important and unstable part of the world.”

Sen. Corker also called Friedman an “impassioned advocate” for strengthening US-Israel relations.