President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel is drawing wide-ranging reactions from jubilant praise to heated criticism.
Trump’s choice, David Friedman, holds distinctly conservative views in direct opposition to long-standing U.S. policy positions. Friedman opposes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, actively supports Israeli settlements and advocates for Israel’s annexation of the West Bank, maintaining that the occupied Palestinian Territories are not occupied.
Friedman, who has no career experience with either policy or diplomacy, is an Orthodox Jewish lawyer who advised Trump during the campaign. A close friend and confidant of Trump, he specialized in bankruptcy law and represented Trump in his investments in Atlantic City casinos.
He serves as one of the co-chairmen of the Israel Advisory Committee to Trump, alongside Jason Greenblatt, another Orthodox Jewish lawyer from New York City.
In an op-ed Friday in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, its U.S. editor Chemi Shalev argued that Friedman “makes Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist.”
Netanyahu’s main political rival, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, wished Friedman good luck Friday, describing him as “a great friend of Israel.”
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely “welcomed” the nomination of Friedman on her Facebook page Friday, describing it as “good news for Israel.”
Among those who have also congratulated Friedman is the Zionist Organization of America, whose president, Morton Klein, said Friedman has “the potential to be the greatest U.S. ambassador to Israel ever.”
Matt Brooks, executive director of the lobbying group Republican Jewish Coalition, tweeted “great choice!”
“David is someone who understands the President’s vision and will strengthen the US-Israel relationship,” Brooks wrote.
Friedman, as the president of the American Friends of Bet El Institutions, associated with the Jewish settlement of Bet El, has consistently and actively supported the construction of new settlements. Friedman, already a frequent visitor, also owns property in Jerusalem.
“I think the West Bank was captured from Jordan in a defensive war,” he told ABC News at an October Trump rally in Israel. “The Jordanians haven’t sought to repatriate that land so I think; I’m a lawyer, under international law I don’t think these settlements are illegal.”
Trump’s take: In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, Jason Greenblatt, co-chairman of the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee, said, “It is certainly not Mr. Trump’s view that settlement activities should be condemned and that it is an obstacle for peace, because it is not an obstacle for peace.”
“The view is that the Israeli electorate is a peace-loving electorate, a very informed electorate,” he said. “They choose their leaders very carefully. It’s a very robust democracy and ultimately they have to live with the consequences. And so the position of the Trump Administration will be to support the decision of the Israeli people to achieve peace as they see fit.”
“The era of Palestinian State is over,” right-wing politician Naftali Bennett declared after the election.
He may be right.
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