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Former ambassadors call Trump's Israel Envoy pick 'unqualified', too 'extreme'

Une responsable du gouvernement israélien a salué vendredi la décision du président élu Donald Trump de nommer David Friedman ambassadeur en Israël comme la promesse d'un changement de politique américaine
THOMAS COEX (AFP/Archives)
The letter questions Friedman's 'balance' and 'temperament' regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Five former US ambassadors to Israel on Wednesday strongly urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a letter to reject US President Donald Trump’s pick for Israel envoy, David Friedman, calling him “unqualified” and “extreme” in his positions.

Haaretz obtained a copy of the letter, citing former ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Dan Kurtzer, Edward Walker, James Cunningham and William Harrop as signatories.

In the letter, the diplomats, who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations and have worked with Israeli leaders of “different political stripes,” outline concerns over Friedman, urging the Senators to examine whether Friedman "has the balance and the temperament required to represent the United States as ambassador to Israel."

They went on to state that they “care deeply about Israel,” and value the country as an ally to the United States, a “stronghold of democracy” in the Middle East, and a “homeland for the Jewish people.”

Ben Gabbe (Getty/AFP)

The ambassadors expressed concerns for some of Friedman’s views regarding the state of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, believing that the US ambassador to Israel must be dedicated to advancing “longstanding bipartisan goals” of security and peace among Israel’s neighbors, specifically the Palestinians, and claim that the only current solution is the creation of two separate states.

“If Israel is to carry on as a democratic Jewish nation, respected internationally, we see no alternative to a two-state solution,” the letter stated.

Friedman, meanwhile is noted to be adamantly opposed to a two-state solution, arguing that it is an “illusory solution in search of a non-existent problem,” as he was quoted in the letter.

The letter also claimed Friedman is a supporter and financier of settlement construction in the West Bank, an issue that has raised great concern among the international community and was condemned in a United Nations Security Council resolution in December.

AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP/File)

The annexation of the West Bank territory is considered a severe impediment to the possibility towards a two-state solution.

Friedman serves as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, an organization that supports a large West Bank settlement just outside Ramallah, reported the Times of Israel.

While Trump has been uncharacteristically evasive about the issue, stating he could “live with either” a two-state or one state solution, he asked the Israeli Prime Minister to “hold back” on the settlements in a joint press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Friedman was further accused of holding extremist and radical views, leading the ambassadors to question his temperament, due to various remarks that accused former US president Barack Obama and the State Department of being anti-Semitic and “propagating false conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton’s adviser Huma Abedin” had “well-established ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Susan Walsh (Pool/AFP/File)

He also reportedly referred to the Anti-Defamation League as “morons,” claimed the letter.

The Times of Israel reported that several groups have also spoken out calling on American Jews to contact their senators to reject the nomination including, Americans for Peace Now, the New Israel Fund, and the National Jewish Democratic Council who echoed doubts of Friedman’s abilities.

According to Times of Israel, more than 600 rabbis and cantors signed a letter protesting the nomination.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday for Friedman’s confirmation hearing.

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