Commentary: Today, in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator Tom Udall voted against confirming David Friedman for ambassador to Israel. Udall cited Friedman's litany of well-documented, extreme, and inflammatory positions and statements maligning members of the Senate, the Obama administration, other public officials, and prominent Jewish organizations.
The Committee advanced Mr. Friedman’s nomination by a narrow 12 to 9 margin, and his nomination now goes to the Senate Executive Calendar for potential future consideration on the Senate floor. No U.S. ambassador to Israel has ever been reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with such a high level of opposition.
Below is the text of Udall’s opening statement as prepared for delivery and placed into the official hearing record:
"Thank you Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Cardin.
"I cannot recall this committee considering a nominee like this. A nominee who has not just simply criticized the policies of the United States — which he is entitled to do as a private citizen — but a nominee who has shown a lack of diplomatic tact and has labeled his opponents — including members of the Senate and this committee — as anti-Semitic. And worse, he derided the Pro-Israel and Pro-Jewish organization J-Street and their members as 'worse than kapos.'
"New videos of his remarks have come to light from CNN in which he supports the conspiracy theory that one of Former Secretary Clinton’s top aides, Huma Abedin, is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"He has apologized to some of his past targets, but I am unaware that he has apologized to the President of J Street or Ms. Abedin. In fact, he is refusing to meet with J Street despite his promises during his hearing to meet with groups with whom he disagrees.
"As I observed during his confirmation hearing, his statements do not represent American values. His statements are not random 'off the cuff' remarks. Much of his offensive, inflammatory, and insulting rhetoric was prepared by him for publication as op-ed pieces.
"Mr. Friedman’s appointment would also represent a profound break with decades of U.S. foreign policy supporting a two-state solution and resisting illegal settlements that make such a solution more remote. President Reagan said settlement activity was, 'no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.'
"I do not believe this committee has ever considered a nominee who is both so extreme in policy views and has been so un-diplomatic with sustained, deliberate, offensive rhetoric.
"I am not shocked to see a nominee like this from our president, but I am shocked that a majority of this committee is apparently going to vote for one.
"Maybe Mr. Friedman will keep his word, and stick to his answers from his hearing if is he confirmed to this job. He did an about face and agreed that a two-state solution is the only realistic situation that the Palestinians would ever agree to … and that settlement activity is an obstacle … and that he will apologize and avoid vicious personal attacks in the future.
"But a person with this background runs a very real risk of contributing to conflict in a dangerous part of the world. This is not the ambassador to the Bahamas; the stakes are high.
"To underscore that this is not some partisan point on my behalf, Mr. Chairman, I am going to read from an unprecedented letter from five former ambassadors to Israel who collectively served in the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama administrations.
"More than any of us, they understand the tact and diplomacy that is needed in the region. And they soundly concluded that Mr. Friedman is not prepared for this important role.
The American ambassador must be dedicated to advancing our country’s longstanding bipartisan goals in the region: strengthening the security of the United States and our ally Israel, and advancing the prospects for peace between Israel and its neighbors, in particular the Palestinians. If Israel is to carry on as a democratic, Jewish nation, respected internationally, we see no alternative to a two-state solution. This has been the bipartisan goal of U.S. foreign policy for decades.
We are concerned that Mr. David Friedman, nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel, strongly disagrees. He has argued that two states for two peoples is 'an illusory solution in search of a non-existent problem.' Mr. Friedman has been active in supporting and financing the settler movement. He has said that he does not believe it would be illegal for Israel to annex the occupied West Bank. We believe him to be unqualified for the position.
(Former Ambassadors to Israel):
Thomas R. Pickering
William C. Harrop
Edward S.Walker, Jr.
Daniel C. Kurtzer
James B. Cunningham"