Will Cory Booker vote against America’s ambassador to Israel?
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David Friedman, an Orthodox Jewish lawyer, philanthropist and major supporter of Israel, should be confirmed this week as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. 

Anti-Israel organizations and those on the far left are mounting a campaign, however, to try to derail his nomination, because of Friedman’s belief that Jews have the right to live anywhere in their homeland and that Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital, should be the site of the U.S. embassy. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should ignore the attacks during his hearing this week, which I plan to attend, and move his nomination to the Senate floor.

After the president selected him, Friedman said, “I intend to work tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.” This is precisely the position we should expect from our next ambassador, and may I say, it’s about time.

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For too long American ambassadors have been forced to toe the line of timid State Department officials, whose phobia over Arab reactions to U.S. support for Israel have prevented the United States from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating the embassy to the city.

 

For too long our ambassadors have seen the need to publicly criticize the democratically elected government of Israel for protecting the interests of the people of Israel.

And for too long our ambassadors have blamed Israel for the ongoing dispute with the Palestinians rather than acknowledge the obstacle to peace is the Palestinians’ refusal to accept the idea of a Jewish state coexisting next to a Palestinian state. 

J Street is predictably leading the opposition to Friedman because the group is fundamentally opposed to Israeli democracy, insisting that its members, sitting in the comfort of their homes 6,000 miles away, know better than the people of Israel who should govern their nation and protect them from their enemies. J Street does not believe Jews have a legitimate claim to Judea and Samaria or the right to live in all of their homeland. Furthermore, the group is out of step with Congress and mainstream Jews who support moving the embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Prodded by J Street, Friedman will be challenged about his past support for Jews in the community of Beit El. The world may villainize the families as settlers, but they have every right to live in the land of Israel. The territory may be disputed, but Jews should not be barred from living there — just as Palestinians are not barred from living in Israel — and Friedman cannot be criticized for making legal contributions to support Jews in that community.

Friedman will likely be asked about his views on a two-state solution. He should not be punished for his skepticism of the idea; he should be applauded for his realism. Unlike many Middle East commentators, Friedman knows the Palestinians have been offered the possibility of statehood no fewer than seven times going back to 1937 and missed every opportunity because of their refusal to accept the idea that one of the two states would be a Jewish state.

Democrats have obstinately united in opposition to Trump’s Cabinet nominations, as is their right. Support for Israel, however, has always been bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats recognize that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, the only reliable U.S. ally in the region and a nation that shares American values and interests. President Obama undermined that bipartisan tradition with his attacks on Israeli policy and its prime minister, and by forcing Democrats to choose party loyalty over Israeli security when he demanded their support for the catastrophic nuclear deal he signed with the genocidal regime in Iran. 

I am confident that Democrats on the committee will reaffirm the bipartisan support for Israel. Staunch friends of Israel such as Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerPelosi fires back after Trump 'meltdown': 'We have to pray for his health' 5 big wins in US-China trade pact Trump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe MORE of New York, Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate Democrats aim to repeal rules blocking Trump tax law workarounds Congress briefed on Iran after Saudi oil attacks Senate Democrats hesitant to go all-in on impeachment probe MORE of Maryland and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezHouse to vote on resolution condemning Trump's Syria pullback Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter Senators ask Treasury to probe Brazilian meatpacker with major US footprint MORE of New Jersey were the only Democrats with the backbone and wisdom to vote against the nuclear deal and will not be swayed by the extremists in their party.

I am less sure, however, about the newest member of the committee, my close friend Cory Booker.

Once he too was a steadfast friend of Israel. However, although I do not in any way question his love for the Jewish state and his commitment to its security, he has been allying himself of late with the far left, as reflected by his condemnation of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her 'high-dollar hairdo' Trump's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy MORE, whom he praised a year before his precedent-setting testimony against his nomination. A supporter of charter schools and someone who worked to advance the cause with Betsy DeVos, Cory reversed himself completely, criticized her and voted against her nomination to head the Department of Education.

But what most concerns me is Cory’s position on Israel. After years of pledging support to Israel in front of audiences of the American Jewish community who made him the single largest recipient of pro-Israel contributions in the nation, the senator defended the nuclear agreement with the genocidal Iranian regime. This, even while Iran repeatedly threatened a second holocaust of the Jewish people and funded terrorism around the world. 

Cory is a frequent user of social media, so it was surprising when he failed to post anything from Israel during his visit last summer. This year he has opposed his colleagues’ efforts to completely condemn the U.N. for passing a one-sided resolution attacking Israel and denying the Jewish right to Judaism’s holiest sites in Jerusalem. Voting against Friedman to placate the far left would be unfortunate and would be interpreted as succumbing to further political pressure.

After weeks of acrimony and divisiveness, I look forward to the Senate showing its traditional comity and bipartisanship in confirming the nomination of David Friedman, a man of principle and conviction, as U.S. ambassador to Israel.

 

Shmuley Boteach is an American Orthodox rabbi, an international author of over 30 books, a TV host, activist and speaker. He was rabbi to Michael Jackson, Cory Booker and other public figures and has been recognized as one of the nation's most influential rabbis by Newsweek and The Washington Post. Reach him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. 


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