WASHINGTON / AP
David Friedman, the firebrand attorney President Donald Trump picked to be his ambassador to Israel, faces a rocky confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after Trump signaled a dramatic shift in strategy for pursuing peace in the Middle East. Friedman’s hearing, scheduled for Thursday, already promised to be contentious. The son of an Orthodox rabbi, Friedman is a fervent supporter of Israeli settlements, an opponent of Palestinian statehood and staunch defender of Israel’s government.
Five former US ambassadors to Israel have declared Friedman unqualified for job, citing his “extreme, radical positions” that include accusing former President Barack Obama and the entire State Department of anti-Semitism.
The ambassadors, who served Republican and Democratic presidents, also said in a letter sent Wednesday to committee members that Friedman characterized supporters of J Street, a liberal Jewish group, as “kapos,” the Jews who cooperated with Nazis during the Holocaust.
“We believe the committee should satisfy itself that Mr Friedman has the balance and the temperament required to represent the United States as ambassador to Israel,” they wrote. The letter opposing Friedman’s nomination was signed by Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham. The drama surrounding Friedman’s confirmation is heightened by Trump’s refusal to explicitly endorse the two-state solution that has been American policy since 2002. Trump, with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side at the White House on Wednesday, withheld clear support for an independent Palestine and declared that he could support a one-state solution that produces peace.
The president’s stance, which separated him from recent American presidents, also immediately distanced the United States from the prevailing position held by much of the world.
J Street, which worked closely with the Obama administration and advocates a two-state solution, called Trump’s remarks “both meaningless and dangerous.”
“How can there be a negotiation, let alone an agreement, when there is no longer a consensus on what the end goal should be?” said Jeremy Ben Ami, J Street’s president.
Trump says intel officials, media unfair to Flynn
WASHINGTON / AP
President Donald Trump is blaming the media and “illegally leaked” intelligence information for bringing down his national security adviser Michael Flynn, one day after the White House said Trump had asked Flynn to resign because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia.
Flynn’s ouster has sparked a new swirl of controversy over Trump’s potential ties to Moscow. Flynn resigned Monday night — at Trump’s behest, the White House later said — after reports that the national security adviser had discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US before the inauguration, despite previously denying those conversations to Pence and other top officials.
But in Trump’s first public comments on Flynn on Wednesday, he appeared to side with his former aide, saying it was “really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”
Trump is said to favour Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, as his next national security adviser, according to a White House official.