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Chuck Schumer Not Taking Sides on David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel

J Street and others opposing David Friedman’s nomination as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel are facing an uphill battle as they try to block his confirmation in the Senate.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Minority Leader, was not willing to commit on Friday to voting against Friedman when his nomination reaches the Senate floor. “They haven’t spoken,” Schumer’s office told The Hill on Friday. In order to derail Friedman’s confirmation, opponents will need all Senate Democrats to vote against him, in addition to at least another three Republican Senators willing to vote against their president’s choice.

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In the House of Representatives, which does not have a say in the confirmation process, five members, three of them Jewish have spoken out so far against Friedman’s nomination.

On Monday, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky Joined New York’s Jerrold Nadler and John Yarmuth of Kentucky in rejecting Friedman as ambassador to Israel, calling him “wholly unfit and completely unqualified.”

Wisconsin’s Gwen Moore said in a statement that Friedman “lacks the experience and temperament necessary” for the job,” and Gerry Connolly from Virginia called Friedman “an intolerant bigot of the first order.”

The bottom line for the anti-Friedman camp is that Democrats have yet to get on board with the drive to defeat the nomination. And before hoping to peel off several Republican votes, opponents of Friedman will have to convince all Senate Democrats that a vote against the nomination will not be seen as a vote against Israel.

AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby, has not weighed in on the choice of Friedman as ambassador to Israel, citing “a long standing policy of not taking positions on presidential appointments.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday that it is “very alarming” that Donald Trump chose Friedman for the post. “For God’s sake, what’s going on?” Erekat asked during a briefing organized by the Wilson Center, warning that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, as Friedman has promised to do, “will be the end of the two-state solution era.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman

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