JERUSALEM (JTA) — The chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America endorsed David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel.
“I believe he’s a very intelligent individual, and I think he’ll be a good representative if he is confirmed,” Richard Sandler, chair of the board of trustees of the major umbrella group said Sunday during a meeting of the Jewish Agency board of governors in Tel Aviv, Haaretz reported. “My expectations of him are very positive,” added Sandler, who said he had met Friedman on several occasions.
Sandler also said he was impressed with Friedman’s knowledge about Israel and its relationship with the United States.
Friedman has been a controversial choice for the position, which serves in part as a liaison between American Jewry and Israel.
He serves as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, which supports a large West Bank settlement. He has expressed skepticism about the two-state solution and harsh criticism of left-wing pro-Israel groups in a series of op-eds in Arutz Sheva, a news website serving Israel’s settlement movement, including calling J Street supporters “kapos.”
During his confirmation hearings last week Friedman said there was “no excuse” for his past rhetoric targeting liberal Jews.
“Obviously he made certain comments before he knew he was going to be vetted for the position of ambassador, but I thought he explained himself very well during the Senate hearings,” Sandler told the Jewish Agency meeting.
He also defended Trump, saying he thought that liberal Jewish Americans underestimate him and his desire to make peace in the region.
“I think he is probably more knowledgeable than some people think on a number of topics, and I think he’s serious about wanting to find a solution here, Sandler said. “I’m sure that whatever policies he and those around him decide are the right ones Mr. Friedman will reflect when he is here.”