Deeply divided Senate confirms David Friedman as envoy to Israel


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate confirmed David Friedman, a confidante of President Donald Trump who outraged some Jewish groups with his broadsides against liberal Jews, as ambassador to Israel.

The 52-46 vote on Thursday afternoon hewed mostly to party lines. Only two Democrats — Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — backed the nomination among the 48 senators who caucus with the party.

Friedman, a longtime Trump lawyer who is heavily invested philanthropically in the settlement movement, had derided liberal Jews in columns and elsewhere over the years. He once called the Anti-Defamation League “morons” for its concerns about intimations of anti-Semitism in Trump’s rhetoric, and assailed J Street, the Middle East policy group, as “worse than kapos,” the Jewish Nazi collaborators.

A range of liberal Jewish groups, including J Street and the Reform movement, had opposed Friedman’s nomination, and J Street led a lobbying charge against him.

Republicans saw it as key to show that Friedman had some Democratic support. Christians United for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition, among other conservative pro-Israel groups, lobbied for Friedman, specifically targeting some Democrats in states that tilt Republican.

The effort does not appear to have borne out, except with Manchin. Among those opposing Friedman in the vote were Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Menendez, who is in a strongly Democratic state, takes a posture on Israel unusually hawkish for his party.

“The RJC is proud of our efforts supporting Mr. Friedman’s nomination,” the group said in a statement. “Along with running digital ads in the home states of Democrat Senators, we were able to connect thousands of pro-Israel Americans with their Senators so as to express their support for Mr. Friedman’s nomination.”

CUFI said Friedman, who has said that one state should not be counted out as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was unfairly targeted for these positions, but did not mention in a statement the principal complaint against Friedman — his use of abusive language. Friedman said at confirmation hearings that he regretted using such language.

“We were determined to ensure that this good and qualified man was not derailed by opponents raising an unprecedented ‘but we don’t agree with him on policy’ standard,” CUFI founding member David Brog said in a statement.

J Street in its statement portrayed the almost party-line vote as a victory.

“Senators responded to the concerns of the former ambassadors to Israel, Holocaust survivors and scholars, hundreds of rabbis and tens of thousands of American Jews who rallied to oppose this nomination,” it said.

Recommended from JTA