WASHINGTON — Today, at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator Tom Udall urged senators to reject the nomination of David Friedman to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Udall questioned Friedman on his litany of well-documented, extreme, and inflammatory positions and statements maligning members of the Senate, the Obama administration, and other public officials. Below is the text of Udall's opening statement as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Chairman and colleagues, I am strongly opposed to this nominee. I believe Secretary Tillerson and President Trump should recognize that Mr. Friedman is completely unfit for this or any other diplomatic office and withdraw him immediately. If not, I strongly recommend that this committee not recommend him for confirmation.
"Mr. Friedman does not represent American values in the region. That is evident from his past statements. And they are not random 'off the cuff' remarks. Much of his offensive, inflammatory, and insulting rhetoric has been reported in the newspapers, and repeated over and over.
"He has called for an arbitrary ban on many Muslims entering the country. Mr. Friedman has stated that Muslims should submit internet and telecommunications activity for inspection, that there is 'no need to worry about the First Amendment,' and that, 'the rights of free speech do not apply' to Muslims attempting to enter our country.
"Mr. Chairman and colleagues, just last week the Republican majority chose to censure a colleague under Senate Rule 19 for 'imputing' bad conduct by a Senator.
"Well, if we truly care whether senators are maligned, we should look at Mr. Friedman's words. He has insulted and denigrated members of the Senate, including Senator Schumer and Senator Franken.
"Mr. Friedman said, 'No matter how he ultimately votes, by making his decision such a close call – which it plainly should not be – Schumer is validating the worst appeasement of terrorism since Munich.'
"When the Anti-Defamation League and Senator Franken criticized a Trump campaign ad as being anti-Semitic, he said 'I don't see how anybody can take the Anti-Defamation League seriously going forward...This is what happens when people take these insane arguments to their logical extension. They lose all credibility, and frankly, they sound like morons.'
"He has slandered President Obama and his administration: 'the blatant anti-Semitism emanating from our President and his sycophantic minions is palpable and very disturbing.'
"He has denigrated Secretary Clinton's personal views on Israel: 'I don't think she particularly likes Israel.'
"Responding to President Obama and Secretary Kerry's condemnations of violence in Israel, he said they are engaging in 'blatant anti-Semitism.'
"I think we can all detect the pattern. Anyone who disagrees with his extreme views or approach to Israel is an anti-Semite.
"For the record, Mr. Friedman has also said that liberal Jews, 'suffer a cognitive disconnect in identifying good and evil.'
"By these words, he disrespects many in the Jewish community, including my home state of New Mexico. I've had many calls from New Mexico urging me to vote against this nomination. Such divisive and hateful comments against any who disagree with him are unbecoming of an ambassador to any country.
"It is clear that Mr. Friedman's appointment would represent a profound break with decades of U.S. foreign policy supporting a two-state solution – and resisting illegal settlements that make such a solution more remote. President Reagan said settlement activity was in 'no way necessary for the security of Israel, and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.'
"I wonder, were President Reagan here today, would Mr. Friedman label him as anti-Semitic?
"Mr. Friedman is profoundly unfit to lead members of the State Department. He accuses many of them of being behind 'over 100 years of anti-Semitism.'
"I say this as a friend of Israel, who has always supported military aid to defend her borders.
"If we confirm him, we are running a dangerous risk that Mr. Friedman will inflame a volatile situation, and other foreign governments.
"We need a steady hand in the Middle East, not another bomb thrower in a position of high power and responsibility.
"One final note: sometimes Mr. Friedman does not stop at merely calling those who disagree with him as anti-Semitic.
"He wrote in an article in 2015 that, 'J-Street supporters...are far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps...They are just smug advocates of Israel's destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas – it's hard to imagine anyone worse.'
"That statement—in a written article, not in off-the-cuff remarks—demonstrates his complete and total unfitness for this extremely important office.
"Mr. Chairman, I would like to enter all the source documents for all of these quotes into the official hearing record.
"If the majority wants to jam through all of President Trump's diplomatic nominees, they probably can. But I would urge them to caucus in private and talk to the president's team to see if we can move in a different direction."