Leah Parker-Bernstein: Concerns about nominee as ambassador to Israel

Naftali Bennett

The Zionist Organization of America Wednesday called on the Senate to confirm lawyer David Friedman as President Donald Trump's ambassador to Israel because he "will be a great credit to America and an upstanding representative of the American people".

"You do not represent us!" an American Jew in a kippa shouted a few minutes later.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, said Friedman has frequently accused politicians he disagrees with of being anti-Semitic. He once said the entire State Department had been anti-Jewish for the last half-century. Trump said he would not require Israel to pursue a so-called two-state solution with the Palestinians, in a moment that symbolically marks the funeral of what has for decades been considered the standard model to resolve the conflict.

The most exciting part of the hearing were the first few minutes, as Friedman's opening statement was interrupted repeatedly by protesters. He also cited his close friendship with Trump and his fluency in the Hebrew language.

Haaretz has reported that Friedman's claim that he only used inflammatory "kapos" rhetoric to describe opponents in the heat of the election campaign is inaccurate; he kept at it after the election was over.

So far, only two diplomatic posts have been officially approved by the Senate Committee: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

"We need a steady hand in the Middle East, not a flame thrower", Udall said.

And that's not all, says Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Charles E. Schumer of NY, the Senate minority leader, as having capitulated to terrorism when he endorsed a historic 2015 deal that blocked Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons. "But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians. are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best", he said Wednesday.

KELEMEN: Graham says he has differences with Friedman over settlements, but points out the NY lawyer is close to Trump.

The U.S. has long favored Israel, even during the relative chill of the Obama.

During his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey asked the nominees for the Israeli Ambassadorship what he sees as an alternative solution to the conflict.

Friedman was named as a defendant in a recent lawsuit filed by 45 Palestinians, Israelis and US citizens for financing war crimes in the Palestinian territories. No other country has put their embassy in Jerusalem because the issue is so sensitive.

On Wednesday, with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, Trump dropped a USA commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long a bedrock of Washington's Middle East policy, even as he urged Netanyahu to curb settlement construction.

In response to questions, Friedman said Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 war had "worked out quite well".

Prior to the hearing, Friedman staked out views far outside the mainstream of American foreign policy, including support for Israeli settlements considered illegal by the global community and the annexation of the West Bank, territory Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.

Senators will also nearly certainly ask Friedman about Trump's announcement that he would move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a highly sensitive issue traditionally left for final status negotiations as both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital. The Gaza Strip is controlled by the radical Hamas organization, while the West Bank is controlled by the more moderate Palestinian Authority.

"I believe he is the right guy at the right time", Graham said.

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