(JTA) — Five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents said that President Donald Trump’s nominee as envoy is “unqualified for the position.”
In a letter sent Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, which begins confirmation hearings for David Friedman on Thursday, the former ambassadors said that the longtime Trump attorney and bankruptcy expert has staked out “extreme, radical positions” and has derided the two-state solution as an “illusory” fix for a nonexistent problem.
The letter urged the committee to “satisfy itself that Mr. Friedman has the balance and the temperament required to represent the United States as ambassador to Israel.”
Its signers — Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham — said they “care deeply about Israel: an American ally, a stronghold of democracy in the Middle East and homeland for the Jewish people.” The letter was posted on Twitter by a reporter for the Israeli daily Haaretz.
— Amir Tibon (@amirtibon) February 16, 2017
“The American ambassador must be dedicated to advancing our country’s longstanding bipartisan goals in the region: strengthening the security of the United States and our ally Israel, and advancing the prospects for peace between Israel and its neighbors, in particular the Palestinians. If Israel is to carry on as a democratic, Jewish nation, respected internationally, we see no alternative to a two-state solution,” they wrote.
The letter noted that Friedman rejects a two-state solution and has been “active in supporting and financing the settler movement.”
Friedman has come under fire for derogatory statements he has made against liberal Jews, including calling supporters of J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, “kapos.” Kapos are the Jewish prisoners who were forced to work for the Nazis in the concentration and death camps.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Friedman will apologize for the statements during his hearing.
Friedman, who owns an apartment in Jerusalem’s Talbiya neighborhood, speaks Hebrew and serves as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions. He was tapped in December for the ambassador post.
Several liberal Jewish organizations and their supporters are protesting the nomination.
The groups organized three separate letters this week to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: one each from over 600 rabbis and cantors, from Holocaust survivors and from Holocaust scholars, protesting the nomination and focusing on Friedman’s use of the term kapo.
Friedman’s supporters include the Zionist Organization of America, the Orthodox Union and Christians United for Israel.
On Wednesday, the ZOA urged the Senate to confirm Friedman, saying his views “reflect widely-held views of the American public at large, the Jewish-American public, Congress and our major American political parties.” It referred to J Street as a “radical, extremist” group, and praised Friedman’s “realistic and flexible approach to achieving peace, his view that there are a variety of potential approaches, and his view that the U.S. should not impose solutions on the parties.”
Also Wednesday, Christians United for Israel ran a full-page ad in the Capitol Hill daily, The Hill, in support of his confirmation. The Orthodox Union sent a letter of support to the Senate committee.