Trump’s new Israel envoy gets a mixed welcome from Jewish groups

David Friedman, who was confirmed by the US Senate on Thursday, was received ambivalently by different Jewish groups that are more concerned than ever about Israel-US relations in the Trump era.

By JTA
March 25, 2017 17:07
2 minute read.
David Friedman

David Friedman. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Jewish groups offered varied reactions, including disappointment, tepid congratulations and enthusiasm, to the confirmation of David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel.

On Thursday the US Senate confirmed Friedman, a longtime lawyer of President Donald Trump who outraged some Jewish groups with his broadsides against liberal Jews, in a 52-46 vote that hewed mostly to party lines.

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A range of liberal Jewish groups, including J Street and the Reform movement, had opposed the nomination of Friedman, who is an advocate of and donor to the settlement movement and has urged skepticism about the two-state solution. The Trump confidante once called the Anti-Defamation League “morons” for its concerns about intimations of antisemitism in Trump’s rhetoric, and assailed J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, as “worse than kapos,” the Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, did not congratulate Friedman in his statement but rather said the Reform movement will “hold Ambassador Friedman to the testimony he offered during his confirmation hearing in which he affirmed that the two-state solution remains the best possibility for peace.”

“We also appreciate that Mr. Friedman expressed regret for past inflammatory comments and hope that he will carry out his new responsibilities with appreciation for the diversity of voices and views in the pro-Israel community,” Jacobs said.

J Street expressed its disappointment at Friedman’s confirmation.

“The important position of U.S. Ambassador to Israel has previously been filled by well-respected public servants capable of garnering unanimous, bipartisan support. It is truly sad that it will now be taken up by such a divisive and aggressive figure, whose life has been dedicated to advancing a dangerous ideological agenda in Israel and the West Bank,” the group said in a Thursday statement.



J Street also said it was “heartened by the unprecedented level of opposition” to Friedman in the Senate; only two Democrats voted for his confirmation.

The Anti-Defamation League congratulated Friedman and expressed hope that he “would account for and respect the diversity of pro-Israel views throughout the Jewish community and broader American public.”
J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami discusses David Friedman and Trump policy on Israel (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

“As he assumes his new post, ADL is prepared to engage with him to support our shared interests, including strengthening the long-standing U.S.-Israel alliance, stabilizing the region to ensure security for Israel and its neighbors, and pursuing efforts toward a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including through the two-state solution,” ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said Friday in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a short congratulatory statement on Friday.

“The Conference of Presidents has enjoyed a vitally important and mutually beneficial close working relationship with each U.S. ambassador to Israel since the founding of the Conference more than sixty years ago. We are sure that it will continue and be enhanced during Amb. Friedman’s tenure, and look forward to working closely with him as he takes up his duties in Israel,” said Stephen Greenberg and Malcolm Hoenlein, the group’s chairman and executive vice chairman.

The Zionist Organization of America, an ardent supporter of Friedman, lauded his confirmation in a Thursday statement.

“Amb. Friedman’s parents Rabbi and Ms. Morris Friedman and Hashem by their side are welling up with pride and joy,” said ZOA President Morton Klein, using a Hebrew word for God. “This is a great day for America, Israel, the Jewish people and Amb. David Friedman. He will be the most pro-Israel pro-America Ambassador to Israel in history.”



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