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Senate panel approves David Friedman for ambassador to Israel

 (AFP/Getty Images)
(AFP/Getty Images)

Over considerable opposition, a Republican-controlled Senate panel Thursday approved President Trump's nominee for ambassador to Israel.

The nomination of David Friedman, Trump's long-time bankruptcy lawyer, now faces a final vote in the full Senate.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-9 to advance Friedman, despite statements he has made attacking liberal American Jews and his financial ties to the Israeli settler movement.

One Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, sided with the panel's 11 Republicans to approve Friedman.

In his hearing Feb. 16, which was frequently interrupted by hecklers, Friedman apologized for his comments and vowed to obey U.S. law and policy.

He had said in the past he would work out of Jerusalem, although the U.S. Embassy is in Tel Aviv, and he has contributed money to Jewish settlements in West Bank lands claimed by the Palestinians. Most of the world considers the settlements to be illegal, and the U.S. in the past has labeled them an obstacle to peace.

Several Republicans said they accepted Friedman's apologies and believed he could rein in personal feelings to fulfill his diplomatic duties.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, however, disagreed.

"While it is clear that David Friedman is committed to the U.S.-Israel relationship, his history of inflammatory rhetoric is poorly matched for this role," Kaine said.

J Street, a liberal, pro-Israel lobbying organization -- whose members Friedman had likened to "kapos," Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust  -- also protested the nomination.

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