The U.S. Senate Thursday confirmed the nomination of Long Islander David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s much-debated pick as ambassador to Israel, in a 52-46 vote that largely fell along party lines. Wearing a traditional kippa, Friedman was sworn in on Friday.
Friedman, 57, a bankruptcy lawyer who served as one of Trump’s advisers on Israel during last year’s election campaign, has been an outspoken supporter of Israel throughout his life—particularly regarding the settlement movement, which he believes is not an obstacle to peace. Friedman, who owns a home in Jerusalem, also strongly supports relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and plans to live at his Jerusalem residence instead of the traditional ambassador’s residence in Herzliya.
Only two Democrats, Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, crossed party lines to join Republicans in supporting Friedman.
Earlier this month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee narrowly approved Friedman in a 12-9 vote that also fell largely along party lines, with most Democrats opposing his nomination over his lack of diplomatic experience as well as controversial statements he had made regarding liberal American Jewish groups.
Yet throughout his Senate confirmation hearing, Friedman had struck a conciliatory tone, saying that he regrets “the use of such language,” including an Israel National News op-ed he authored last year that described supporters of the left-wing Jewish lobby group J Street as “worse than kapos.” He sought to reassure the committee members that he would be more tactful and diplomatic in his role as ambassador to Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Friedman on his confirmation, tweeting that he will be “warmly welcomed as President Trump’s representative and as a close friend of Israel.”
Stephen M. Greenberg, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman/CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued a statement saying they have “enjoyed a vitally important and mutually beneficial close working relationship with each U.S. ambassador to Israel since the founding of the Conference more than 60 years ago. We are sure that it will continue and be enhanced during Amb. Friedman’s tenure, and look forward to working closely with him as he takes up his duties in Israel.”
Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, which says it represents more than 3.3 million pro-Israel Christians, called Friedman “the right man for this extremely challenging post.”