Reform Jewish Movement Opposes David Friedman’s Nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Reform Jewish Movement Opposes David Friedman’s Nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Friday, February 17, 2017

There can be no doubt that David Friedman loves Israel or that he has an extraordinarily close relationship with President Trump, but those are not the essential qualifications of a U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

This week, we watched as President Trump presided over a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and made statements that are contrary to the vision of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered the nomination of a potential U.S. Ambassador to Israel whose rhetoric could similarly endanger the future of Israel.

After extensive consideration of his lengthy public record on issues related to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship, as well as hearing from Mr. Friedman during his confirmation hearing and a one-on-one private meeting between Mr. Friedman and URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, we oppose the nomination of David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel. We urge all Senators to join us and vote against Mr. Friedman’s nomination.

We have never before opposed the nomination of a U.S. Ambassador. We do so now because of our firm belief that Mr. Friedman is the wrong person for this essential job at this critical time:

  • Mr. Friedman lacks the basic qualifications for the position. Unlike every other past holder of this important position, Mr. Friedman has no professional foreign policy experience. He has never been involved in these issues other than as a zealous partisan and financial supporter of settlement activity.

  • Mr. Friedman’s views on key issues suggest he will not be able to play a constructive role. The U.S. Ambassador to Israel has the important responsibility of advising, shaping, and helping implement the President’s foreign policy goals. Indeed, it appears that Mr. Friedman’s extreme views on key issues related to the two-state solution, Israel’s borders, settlements, and the location of the U.S. Embassy are already reflected in the White House. Such positions are detrimental to peace and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

We simply can’t accept that Mr. Friedman’s moderated position as expressed in his confirmation hearing replaces a long and detailed history that he has on Israel, both in his stated comments and his philanthropy. He has invested significant dollars in support of the settlements and a vision of Israel that we believe endangers both American and Israeli security and other interests in the region.

  • Mr. Friedman lacks the necessary temperament for such a sensitive position. Mr. Friedman has publicly disparaged organizations representing large constituencies of American Jews, calling fellow Jews “kapos” and “morons.” While we appreciate that during his hearing Mr. Friedman recognized the problematic nature of these remarks, we note that he has had an opportunity to apologize for those deeply offensive remarks every day since he made them months ago. Any American ambassador, let alone one in such a sensitive post, must possess a personality that instinctively seeks to bridge divides, rather than inflame divisions.

Just as we are critical of Mr. Friedman’s lack of diplomatic temperament, we wish to distance ourselves from the protesters who repeatedly interrupted his hearing. Mr. Friedman deserves a hearing, and Senators deserve a chance to ask him the important questions they have about his fitness for this office.

A robust, bipartisan U.S.-Israel relationship serves the interests and reflects the values of both nations. Israel has no more longstanding friend and the U.S. has no stronger ally in the region. We will continue to work to ensure Israel’s security and well-being as well as the achievement of a two-state solution with a Jewish state in Israel and an Arab state in Palestine, living peacefully side by side.

Association of Reform Zionists of America
Rabbi Josh Weinberg, President

Association of Reform Zionists of America
Rabbi John Rosove, Chair

Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Steve Fox, Chief Executive

Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Denise Eger, President

Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Isabel P. Dunst, Chair

Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism
Jennie Rubin, President

Men of Reform Judaism
Steven Portnoy, President

National Association for Temple Administration
Abigail Goldberg Spiegel, President

North American Federation of Temple Youth
Kathryn Fleisher, President

Program and Engagement Professionals of Reform Judaism
Shelly Lenkin Gordon, President

Reform Pension Board
G. Leonard Teitelbaum, Chair

Reform Pension Board
Michael Kimmel, Executive Director

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director

Union for Reform Judaism
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President

Union for Reform Judaism
Daryl Messinger, Chair

Women’s Rabbinic Network
Rabbi Ellen Nemhauser, Co-President

Women’s Rabbinic Network
Rabbi Mary L. Zamore, Executive Director

Women’s Rabbinic Network
Rabbi Elizabeth Zeller, Co-President