A Senate committee has been urged to carefully consider Donald Trump’s nomination for ambassador to Israel, saying that he is an “extremist” who is unqualified for the job.
In a letter sent to the Senate foreign relations committee, five former US ambassadors said that Trumps pick, hard liner David Friedman, had presented “extreme, radical positions” on Israel, supported illegal settlements and opposed a two-state solution for the Palestinian conflict.
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The committee began confirmation hearings on Thursday for Friedman, a Trump lawyer who has called for the US embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and denounced progressive pro-Israel lobbyists as “worse than kapos” – a reference to Jews who served the Nazis in the death camps of World War Two.
At his nomination hearing, Friedman backtracked on some of his earlier statements saying that the language he used during the campaign had been rightly criticised.
“I regret use of such language,” said Friedman. “The inflammatory rhetoric during the presidential campaign is entirely over. If confirmed my language would be measured.”
“There is no excuse for my offensive comments. I deeply regret them. They don’t reflect my character,” added Friedman.
Friedman hearing in minute 35 interrupted by protester holding Palestinian flag pic.twitter.com/EvVthC5TXX
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) February 16, 2017
His hearing was interrupted by pro-Palestinian campaigners singing and waving Palestinian flags. The protestors were removed from the hearing.
The former ambassadors’ 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”.
The letter noted Friedman has been “active in supporting and financing the settler movement”.
It was signed by Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham, envoys who have worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Friedman attacked J Street in December after the group said it was “vehemently opposed” to his nomination.
“Friedman is a leading American friend and funder of the settlement movement, lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials and has attacked fellow Jews and public figures with hateful accusations that are disqualifying for representing our country in any capacity,” it said.
“Friedman has consistently aligned himself with some of the most irresponsible charges and conspiracy theories of the far-right, Islamophobic fringe in this country.
“He has labeled ‘liberal Jews’ as ‘worse than kapos’, referring to Jews who collaborated with Nazis during the Holocaust, thereby hideously twisting the legacy of the Holocaust for use as a political weapon.
“His nomination is reckless, putting America’s reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk.”
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