The opposition facing David Friedman, President Trump’s pick to be the next US ambassador to Israel, became clear at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Thursday when first Palestinian protestors and then leftist Jewish ones stood up and assailed him verbally. But the opposition didn’t just come from visitors to the hearings; several of the senators raked Friedman, an Orthodox Jew and confidant of President Trump who has written outspokenly in defense of Israel, over the coals.
Friedman’s confirmation by the full Senate seems likely. The hearing showed that his approval may, like other issues involving Israel, become a partisan issue. But it also showed that he could remain largely unflappable in the face of questioning, while expressing apologies about the positions he had previously taken.
Interruptions and inquiries
After introductory testimony by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and former Senator Joseph Lieberman in support of Friedman, the protestors started.
“We were there and we will always be there; Palestinians will always be in Palestine,” screamed a flag-waving Palestinian protester who invoked his grandfather being removed from his land by Israel, just before he was removed from the committee room by security. Another flag waver stood up soon afterward and read a statement from his cell phone about Friedman’s investment in a building in the West Bank.
Next was the Jews’ turns. A woman and a man (with a yarmulke on his head) from the far-left Jewish group IfNotNow stood. The woman began her statement; as she was pulled away, the man began his spiel, which ended with him singing—off-key—a Hebrew song about peace as he was led away.
The actual questioning of Friedman took on a clear partisan pattern. Republicans asked questions that probed his opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many of them asking questions obviously intended for easy answers by Friedman: Is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel a major driver of the conflict? Will the US cooperation with Israel continue as strongly?