Reform movement raises objections to nominee for ambassador to Israel

Andrew Silow-Carroll

(JTA) — The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center has joined the list of liberal Jewish groups objecting to President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel.

In a Tuesday statement commenting on Trump appointments, the center’s director, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, questioned whether Friedman has “the temperament or judgment to represent the United States in a sensitive diplomatic position.”

Friedman, an attorney who represents Trump on bankruptcy issues, supports and has funded construction in settlements and rejects the two-state solution. He has labeled the Anti-Defamation League “morons” for raising questions about a Trump campaign ad that some felt trafficked in anti-Semitic imagery, and called the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group J Street “worse than kapos,” Jewish inmates who assisted Nazis in their persecution of fellow Jews.

Pesner cites Friedman’s record and rhetoric in his statement, saying “it is important that the State Department, and particularly the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, maintain open and active dialogue with all organizations representing major constituencies of American Jews.” Saying Friedman has “spoken in deeply offensive ways about his fellow American Jews,” Pesner urges members of Congress to ask Friedman how he plans “to engage representatives of Jewish organizations representing a variety of perspectives on issues related to Israel.”

Last week, more than 100 Jewish studies scholars signed a letter urging the Senate to reject Friedman, saying he has “no diplomatic experience and has spoken in the most undiplomatic terms on issues about which we have scholarly expertise.” The letter, appearing first in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, asserts that Friedman’s comments on J Street and the ADL “attest to an absence of good judgment and lack of historical understanding.”

Americans for Peace Now also is urging Congress to reject Friedman’s nomination, citing his stance on the two-state solution and the “contempt” he has shown in his comments about other Jewish groups.

Friedman’s supporters include the Zionist Organization of America, which said he has “a powerful grasp of Israel’s defense needs, the dangers they face, and the danger now of a Hamas/P.A. State,” and the Republican Jewish Coalition, which said the nomination “sends a powerful signal to the Jewish community and the State of Israel that President-elect Trump’s administration will strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region.”