Trump Israel ambassador pick said State Department has been anti-Semitic for 'past 70 years'

Story highlights

  • Friedman called the State Department 'anti-Semitic' in a speech last October.
  • Friedman apologized during his Senate confirmation hearing for some of his heated rhetoric during the campaign.

(CNN)Donald Trump's nominee to be his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, accused the State Department during a speech last October of having been anti-Semitic since Israel's founding.

Friedman, a bankruptcy attorney who met Trump in the 1990s, said in the speech that Trump would buck State Department advice and move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
"In 1995, Congress enacted a law that required the embassy of the United States to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," Friedman told a crowd at a Jerusalem rally for the Trump campaign. "That's 21 years ago. Hasn't happened. Why? Because the law provides that the obligation to move the embassy to Jerusalem can be waived at the desire of the State Department, the same State Department that has been anti-Israel and anti-Semitic for the past 70 years."
    "Now every president gets elected and he says to the State Department, 'what about this law? Should we move the embassy to Jerusalem,'" he continued. "The State Department says, 'absolutely not. Absolutely not.' The lifers in the State Department are absolutely, positively committed to never moving the embassy to Jerusalem. What's different about Donald Trump? You all know Donald Trump. If there's anybody in the world of politics who could stand up to the State Department, it is Donald Trump."
    During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Friedman said he understood the difference between the political rhetoric of a campaign and the duties of a diplomat and apologized for some of his more heated comments made during the course of the campaign.
    "These were hurtful words, and I deeply regret them. They're not reflective of my nature or my character," he told senators on the Foreign relations committee earlier this month. Friedman's nomination has yet to come up for a vote.
    In the same speech, Friedman criticized Hillary Clinton for calling for a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank during her first few month as secretary of state.
    "She went to Israel and said, 'You know what guys, I want a complete, absolute freeze, no natural growth, no buildings, no accommodations for broken housing, nothing, not another brick gets laid, not another shovel gets dug in Judea and Samaria. Well, Secretary Clinton, in exchange for that, what are the Palestinians going to do? Oh, they're not doing anything. 'I'm not asking them to do anything. I'm just asking you to freeze all your settlement buildings.' And that put enormous strain on the government of Israel."
    "Everyone knew it wasn't going to accomplish anything," he added. "For 10 months, the people in Judea and Samaria suffered needlessly because of this insane policy."
    Friedman told Senators during his confirmation hearing that Israeli settlements --- which he has previously strongly supported --- may not be helpful to the peace process.
    In the speech last year, Friedman also repeated unfounded claims that longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. When an audience member yelled out "al Qaeda," Friedman responded, "and al-Qaeda. Right."
    Friedman later told an Israeli television station, "I was repeating what they said and I don't endorse that statement."
    He added, "I don't know one way or another if that's true."
    He said in the interview he didn't think it was "terribly controversial" to say Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and that he could not "renounce" statements that Abedin has ties to al-Qaeda because he didn't know one way or another.