1. Action Alert
  2. Middle East & Iran

Broad Opposition to Friedman for Israel Ambassador

By Kate Gould, January 12, 2017

A broad spectrum of opponents to Friedman's nomination, including Members of Congress, media, and civil society, are speaking out on Trump’s dangerous choice for U.S. Ambassador to Israel for his extreme positions.

UPDATE: On March 9, David Friedman squeaked out approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a two vote margin. The narrow margin of the vote reflects the growing grassroots mobilization to the pro-settlement, pro-occupation policies that Mr. Friedman has promoted.

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David Friedman’s record of funding illegal Israeli settlements, his support for Israeli annexation of the West Bank, and his likening of supporters of the two-state solution to Nazi collaborators should disqualify him from one of the most sensitive and complex diplomatic postings in the world. FCNL strongly encourages senators to speak out against his nomination and the dangerous policies that he has advocated.

Statement Senate Confirms David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel 

FCNL vigorously opposed the nomination and urged senators to speak out against his nomination and the dangerous pro-settlement, pro-occupation policies that Friedman has advocated.

Friedman's opinions stand in stark contrast to decades of bipartisan U.S. policy on Israel/Palestine. He has attacked U.S. policy in support of peace efforts, falsely accused President Obama of anti-Semitism, and disparaged liberal U.S. Jews as "far worse than kapos," Jewish collaborators with the Nazis. Our colleagues at Americans for Peace Now have composed this portrait of Friedman's extreme views.

Background David Friedman In His Own Words  

Americans for Peace Now compiled quotes from his articles and speeches so that advocates and lawmakers can understand Friedman's views.

In response to President-elect Trump's dangerous choice for US Ambassador to Israel, high-profile voices from across the political spectrum are speaking out. See their statements below:

Members of Congress

Mr. Friedman's extreme views and use of such hateful language is an insult to the majority of American Jews - Rep. Nadler

Sen. Tom Udall (NM): “Mr. Friedman's inflammatory positions and statements and his lack of commitment to a two-state solution are disqualifying.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): “ am unable to support his nomination as America’s top diplomat in Israel... Taken together, Mr. Friedman’s statements and affiliations make it clear that he does not believe the two-state solution is necessary for a just and lasting peace. I am concerned that Mr. Friedman’s history on this issue undermines his ability to represent the United States as a credible facilitator of the peace process.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA): “Even more frightening, I feel his confirmation would only fan the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Friedman’s comments questioning the legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership alone make it impossible for him to be a neutral arbiter for peace. We need an ambassador who will bridge the divide between Israelis and Palestinians, not make it worse. This posting is far too sensitive to entrust in an individual so divisive.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT): “He has made a career of disparaging and inflammatory statements about U.S. policy in the Middle East, about former U.S. officials, about the Palestinians, and about American Jews who have views that differ from his own... Those comments alone should disqualify him for this sensitive position, and it is no surprise that tens of thousands of Americans have signed petitions circulated by pro-Israel groups opposing his nomination.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH): “I’ve heard from many Ohioans with deep concerns about David Friedman, President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel. Our ambassador to Israel must represent the broad American support for a two-state solution and be a passionate advocate for peace. Mr. Friedman’s past comments, temperament, and lack of experience give me serious doubts that he can fulfill America’s commitment to Israel’s security and values.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR): “His lack of diplomatic experience and his history of supporting actions and policies that run counter to long-standing U.S. foreign policy objectives are extremely concerning... Given these various concerns, I will vote against Mr. Friedman's nomination.”

Sen. Al Franken (MN): Sen. Al Franken told the Jewish World that he will vote against the confirmation of David Friedman... When Trump released his final presidential campaign video, which had strong anti-Semitic overtones of Jews controlling international banking, Franken commented that it was a “German Shepherd whistle” — not just an ordinary dog whistle of anti-Semitism. Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who has been Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer for many years, then called Franken a “clown” and a “moron.” “He came and he apologized for that, and I accepted his apology,” said Franken, “but noted that being an ambassador involved something called diplomacy.”

I accepted his apology but noted that being an ambassador involved something called diplomacy. - Sen. Franken

Rep. Jerry Nadler (NY): “Mr. Friedman’s extreme views and use of such hateful language is an insult to the majority of American Jews.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (TN): “Reject Friedman!”

Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): Friedman is an “affront to US policies on settlements and a two-state solution.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL): “If the United States truly seeks a lasting peace in the Middle East, President Trump’s choice to be our country’s next envoy to Israel is the wrong man. David Friedman will bring only a lengthy record of conflict and provocation to the job.”

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA): “The choice of Mr. Friedman does damage to our credibility and makes peace more difficult.”

Rep. Scott Peters (CA): “This video confirms that David Friedman is an extreme and reckless choice to be our top diplomat to Israel... I am also concerned with the White House’s slow, reluctant response to the rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and acts around the country, and find it unacceptable to nominate an ambassador who mocks organizations that are doing so much to combat hate in our communities.”

Rep. Gwen Moore (WI): “From his blind support for settlements in the West Bank and flagrant opposition to a two-state solution to his unconscionable and frighteningly causal use of holocaust imagery to vilify progressive American Jews, Mr. Friedman lacks the experience and temperament necessary to serve as our nation’s ambassador to Israel.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (CA): “The policy of trying to box in Netanyahu and force him out of the two-state solution, which is the official policy of his government, is not something that the Senate is going to want to see.”

Because he has vilified Palestinians, Muslims, liberal Jews, Democrats, former President Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, Friedman is a terrible selection for ambassador to Israel. - Rep. Raskin

Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): “David Friedman is no diplomat, no statesman and no conciliator... Because he has vilified Palestinians, Muslims, liberal Jews, Democrats, former President Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, Friedman is a terrible selection for ambassador to Israel.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL): The Friedman appointment “risks upending regional stability, makes a permanent peace agreement even more difficult to obtain, and threatens the security of Israel.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (KY): Friedman “is totally out of step with longstanding, bipartisan US foreign policy.”

Background Senators Feinstein and Heinrich Warn Against Friedman for Israel Ambassador 

Senators Feinstein and Heinrich write: "President Trump’s nominee to be the ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has been a benefactor of Israeli settlement expansion and has demonstrated an openly hostile attitude to a two-state solution. These Israeli actions and Friedman’s views are not helpful to Israel, to the peace process, or to the national security of the United States."

Background Which Members of Congress are Expressing Concerns about Friedman? 

J Street is cataloging the statements of Members of Congress who have expressed concerns about Friedman. A number of Representatives have spoken out against Friedman, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has also raised concerns.

Newspaper Editorials

Haaretz: “If Friedman’s appointment fails to pass in the Senate after close scrutiny of his background and a thorough hearing, that will be a blessing for Israel.”

Friedman 'is a hard-right flame thrower, known for intemperate remarks and obstructionist policies that could deepen the Mideast deadlock.' - San Francisco Chronicle

The New York Times: With Trump’s “choice of Mr. Friedman, he has displayed a dangerous ignorance of or indifference to the land mines across the Middle East. The Senate has the responsibility to protect Mr. Trump and the country from taking this reckless step.”

Washington Post: “Trump’s Israel ambassador pick could have dangerous consequences.”

San Francisco Chronicle: Friedman “is a hard-right flame thrower, known for intemperate remarks and obstructionist policies that could deepen the Mideast deadlock.”

Baltimore Sun:Friedman “has no diplomatic experience but has helped finance the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and is openly hostile to any two-state solution... In effect, Mr. Trump, has turned over U.S. efforts to mediate one of the world's most intractable conflicts to a pair of untried amateurs when clearly the situation requires experienced professionals.”

Florida Sun Sentinel: “Friedman may be the worst appointee in the worst place at the worst time.”

Boston Globe: “The president-elect has also made an inflammatory pick for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, an ardent supporter of the West Bank settlements that stand as the most visible impediment to peace. If the Trump administration abandons past US policy and offers full-throated support for those settlements, it would not only stir sharp opposition from Arab states, it could also empower the most extreme elements of Israeli politics.”

Jewish Organizations

Friedman’s confirmation would dangerously and unnecessarily inflame extremist passions against both the United States and Israel. - Jewish Labor Committee

600+ Rabbis: “The rabbis of the Talmud are adamant that we are to speak to and about other people — particularly those with whom we disagree — with love and respect. We are taught that shaming a person is tantamount to shedding their blood (Baba Metzia 58b). Yet Mr. Friedman seems to have no qualms about insulting people with whom he disagrees.”

Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA): “Mr. Friedman’s lack of diplomatic experience and extreme views are cause for great concern.”

Ameinu: “As Americans and Zionists Ameinu strongly opposes the nomination of bankruptcy lawyer David M. Friedman to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel and urges the Senate to reject this appointment.”

Americans for Peace Now: “Friedman opposes the two-state solution and thus breaks with longstanding bi-partisan U.S. policy on Israel, a policy that even Prime Minister Netanyahu endorses.”

Central Conference of American Rabbis: “We also fear that Mr. Friedman’s public statements indicate an approach and inflammatory attitude, and therefore deride Americans who may disagree with his view and concurrently promote division among Americans, including within the Jewish community.”

Descendants of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Mr. Friedman, by his words and support of the Israeli settler movement, does not reflect what we believe should be American policy toward Israel. Further, he appears intolerant of opposing views and unable to represent American interests in the Middle East. We oppose his nomination.”

Israel Policy Forum: “Mr. Friedman’s stated views on the two-state solution, Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represent a radical departure from decades of U.S. policy.”

J Street: "J Street is vehemently opposed to the nomination of David Friedman to serve as United States Ambassador to Israel. 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."

The selection of David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel represents a threat to the security of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jews everywhere. - T'ruah

JCRC of Boston: “What is needed now is a strong, judicious ambassador who knows how to facilitate conciliation; not someone who will fuel polarization and heighten conflict.”

Jewish Labor Committee: Friedman’s confirmation “would dangerously and unnecessarily inflame extremist passions against both the United States and Israel.”

Jewish Voice for Peace: “David Friedman’s appointment as U.S. ambassador to Israel indicates that the Trump Administration has aligned itself with the farthest right elements of the Israeli government.”

National Council of Jewish Women: “If confirmed, he could undermine Israel’s traditional bi-partisan support in the United States and alienate much of the American Jewish community.”

National Jewish Democratic Council: “Trump must stand for a strong US-Israel relationship and take it seriously. Hasn't ever been a less experienced pick for US Amb to Israel.”

New Israel Fund: Friedman “stands for neither democracy nor the Jewish value of tsedek that are so desperately needed in these times… (and) represents extreme fringe views that are at odds with most American Jews.”

Partners for Progressive Israel: “Mr. Friedman poses a threat to longstanding US policies in the Middle East that have been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents alike.”

We urge all Senators to join us and vote against Mr. Friedman’s nomination. - Union for Reform Judaism

T’ruah: “The selection of David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel represents a threat to the security of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jews everywhere.”

Union for Reform Judaism: “We oppose the nomination of David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel. We urge all Senators to join us and vote against Mr. Friedman’s nomination. We have never before opposed the nomination of a U.S. Ambassador. We do so now because of our firm belief that Mr. Friedman is the wrong person for this essential job at this critical time.”

Update Holocaust Survivors' Descendants Speak Out against Friedman Nomination 

A number of constituents whose families were impacted by the Holocaust wrote to their Senators to explain how their Jewish families' values and experiences compelled them to stand for justice and oppose the Friedman nomination. Here you can read two public letters.

Press Release Sen. Shaheen Reads Letter from Holocaust Descendant at Friedman Hearing, Friedman Responds  

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) read the letter of constituent and Holocaust descendant Alicia Sanders-Zakre urging her to oppose President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

Update Joe Harris says Friedman Goes Against What His Family Has Stood For 

In a powerful letter, Joe Harris of Cambridge, Massachusetts describes a number of compelling family stories to share on how, as Jewish Americans and Zionists, Friedman’s nomination will do untold damage to Israeli and to the region.

Kate Gould

  • Legislative Director, Middle East Policy

Kate Gould served as FCNL's Legislative Director for Middle East Policy. Kate was one of only a handful of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. working to advance human rights objectives and support diplomatic solutions to resolve disputes between the U.S. and Iran and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Israel/Palestine.