David Friedman, who previously said Jewish people who supported a two-state solution were worse than Nazi collaborators, is an important step closer to becoming America’s Ambassador to Israel.
Donald Trump’s pick for what has for decades been one of the most senior US diplomatic posts, was approved by the Foreign Relations Committee. Mr Friedman now has to be confirmed by the full senate. With the senate weighted 52-48 in favour of the Republicans, Mr Friedman would expect that to happen.
Yet nothing is certain. Members of the Republican-led panel on Thursday voted 12-9 - a move that played out largely along party lines and a possible indication of a battle that may lie ahead. New Jersey senator Bob Menendez broke ranks with his fellow Democrats to support Mr Friedman.
David Friedman,approved by Senate panel as envoy to Israel -OK But what does he think about Palestinians?. https://t.co/rDWAa7fhuo— Javed Ahmed Mir (@JavedMir16) March 9, 2017
Mr Menendez’s colleagues said that the lawyer’s reputation for having made a series of fiery comments, underscored his unsuitability for the post.
“The region is incredibly volatile. The last thing we need in this position is somebody who has a penchant for over-the-top, hyperbolic and even false statements,” said committee member Tim Kaine.
“There will be a volatility to his holding this position that is exactly the wrong ingredient to put in this important relationship and this region of the world.”
Senator Benjamin Cardin, the committee’s top Democrat, said earlier this week that he would not vote in favour of Mr Friedman, citing concerns with several statements he has made regarding anti-Semitism and his position on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Mr Friedman apologised for some of his earlier rhetoric.
“Some of the language that I used during the highly charged presidential campaign that ended last November has come in for criticism and rightfully so,” he said.
“While I maintain profound differences of opinion with some of my critics, I regret the use of such language.”
Mr Friedman had been criticised for accusing Barack Obama and the entire State Department of anti-Semitism and for deriding the liberal Jewish group J Street as “kapos” - Jewish prisoners who helped the Nazis kill other Jews in the concentration camps.