Smith Statement on Nomination of Mr. David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel
“I have been a strong supporter of the State of Israel and a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian territories for a long time. I believe our partnership with Israel and its people is critical and in our national security interests. I have been troubled by the lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, from the unresolved and unhelpful settlements and lack of recognition of Israel's right to exist, to the violence that has taken innocent lives on both sides and has unfortunately set back the path towards peace. For the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a lasting peace, we must have persistent, high-level U.S. engagement with both Israel and the Palestinians in order to build such peace and arrive at a two state solution.
“I also believe that both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in peace and security. Since its creation in 1948, Israel has been under constant threat of attack. It is critical that we continue to support Israel’s qualitative military edge and ability to defend itself. I am also sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians and believe that, in order for there to be long-term security and peace in the region; they too must have a state of their own. I know that the overwhelming majority of the people in Israel and Palestine want to live and raise their families in peace. The only way to reach a two state solution is for Israel and the Palestinian people to directly negotiate and reach an agreement together.
“It is for those reasons, that I am troubled by and oppose the nomination of Mr. David Friedman to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Mr. Friedman’s experience as President Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer does not qualify him to lead diplomatic efforts to resolve one of the most complicated matters in the world. Indeed, the last ten U.S. Ambassadors—in both Republican and Democratic Administrations—had prior United States Government experience. Apart from having no experience in diplomacy, Mr. Friedman has made a pattern of deeply concerning comments which disparaged fellow Americans, equating some of them as Nazi sympathizers and questioning their support for Israel. While reasonable people may disagree with tactics or strategy in reaching a two-state solution, Mr. Friedman’s verbal assaults demonstrate a blind spot in how to constructively engage with those one may disagree and calls into question his ability to conduct diplomacy. Mr. Friedman’s nomination is further complicated by the fact that in his opening statement, he made no mention of the two-state solution. Additionally, reports that Mr. Friedman intends to live and work in Jerusalem run the risk of unnecessarily inflaming an already difficult situation and demonstrates the lack of tact required to resolve complex issues.
“I believe the United States must remain committed to a two-state solution that leads to a secure Israel for the Jewish people and the creation of a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. While it is the Senate’s choice whether to confirm Mr. Friedman, I believe our nation would be better served if President Trump nominated a proven diplomat, fully committed to Israel’s security as a democratic and Jewish state and a two-state solution.”