WASHINGTON – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the nomination of David Friedman, a vocal supporter of Israeli settlements and a longtime associate of U.S. President Donald Trump, as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.
As reported by Ha’Aretz, 11Republican senators voted for Friedman, joined by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) who broke ranks with fellow Democrats, all remaining nine of whom voted against the nomination.
The fact that Menendez was the sole Democrat to vote in favor of the nomination, thus providing it with a minimal level of bipartisan cover, didn’t come as a surprise. Menendez, like Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), was one of only four Democrats to vote against the Iran deal in 2015. He comes from New Jersey, a state with a large Jewish population, and has important supporters and donors from the more right-wing and Orthodox segments of the state’s Jewish community, which were generally supportive of Friedman’s nomination.
Friedman has said that he would move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which had been one of Trump’s campaign promises. This position is a departure to longstanding U.S. policy under both Democratic and Republican presidents, which has not recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The relocation would, however, be in accordance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by Congress in 1995, which requires the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Friedman’s nomination was controversial. The liberal advocacy organization J Street “vehemently opposed” Friedman’s nomination. Friedman previously stated that Jewish people who supported a two-state solution were worse than Nazi collaborators.
Meanwhile, many Israelis are welcoming the choice. One Israeli posted on Facebook, “Mazal Tov Ambassador David Friedman. Looking forward to welcoming you here in Israel where David slew Goliath. You will find many old friends and patriotic ex-pats here!”