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Israel Welcomes US Senate’s Confirmation of Settlement-backer as Ambassador | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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David Friedman testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Reuters file photo.

Washington- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed the US Senate’s confirmation of David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s nominee, to be ambassador to Israel.

Netanyahu declared on Twitter that Friedman “will be warmly welcomed as President Trump’s representative and as a close friend of Israel.”

On Thursday, the Senate narrowly confirmed Friedman, an outspoken lawyer aligned with the Israeli right.

The vote was 52 to 46, almost exclusively along party lines. Only two Democrats, Senators Robert Menendez and Joe Manchin, joined Trump’s fellow Republicans in backing Friedman.

Friedman, who has no diplomatic experience, is a longtime friend of Trump who worked for the Republican former New York businessman as a bankruptcy lawyer.

In addition to investing in settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians, Friedman favors moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The relocation is strongly opposed by many US allies because both Israel and the Palestinians claim the city as their capital.

According to Agence France Presse, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein voted against Friedman and dubbed him “too divisive to serve in one of our nation’s most sensitive diplomatic positions.”

After the vote, Senator Brian Schatz, a Jewish member of the Senate who is also up for reelection next year, also spoke out against Friedman’s nomination, explaining that the diplomat’s positions on settlements and two-state solution contradict US policies and interests in the Middle East.

J Street, a nonprofit liberal advocacy group based in the US, said it is heartened by the unprecedented level of opposition Friedman faced in being narrowly confirmed as ambassador.

“Almost half of the Senate voted to oppose this deeply unqualified and inappropriate nominee,” it said in a statement.

But the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) “strongly” applauded the Senate in approving Friedman as the next US ambassador to Israel.

“With Mr. Friedman as our new ambassador, there is no question that the relationship between the US and Israel will grow stronger,” it said.