Trump chooses hardline Zionist David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel

Published December 16th, 2016 - 12:00 GMT
Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be "the eternal capital of the Jewish people," when speaking at an AIPAC conference this fall. (AFP/File)
Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be "the eternal capital of the Jewish people," when speaking at an AIPAC conference this fall. (AFP/File)

US President-elect Donald Trump has nominated David Friedman, a hardline Zionist, as US ambassador to Israel, likely paving the way toward a controversial decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Friedman, a fervent supporter of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine and opponent of the two-state solution, served as one of Trump’s main advisers on Israel during his presidential campaign.

"(Friedman) has been a long-time friend and trusted adviser to me. His strong relationships in Israel will form the foundation of his diplomatic mission and be a tremendous asset to our country as we strengthen the ties with our allies and strive for peace in the Middle East," Trump said in a statement Thursday.

Friedman said he looked forward to filling the diplomatic position at a future US embassy in Jerusalem, a move that would distance Washington from most of the international community, including its closest allies in Western Europe and the Arab world.

J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel group based in Washington, DC, said it was "vehemently opposed" to Friedman's nomination. "This nomination is reckless, putting America's reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk," the statement said.

“As someone who has been a leading American friend of the settlement movement, who lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials,” it said, “Friedman should be beyond the pale.” 

Trump vowed during his presidential campaign that he would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a step that would enrage Palestinians and create an international furor.

Former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush promised the same thing during their presidential campaigns in order to court pro-Israel voters, but later reversed their proposals.

Earlier this month, outgoing US President Barack Obama renewed a presidential waiver ordering the US Embassy in Israel to remain in Tel Aviv and not be moved to Jerusalem, despite pressure by Congress and Israel to do so.

The White House said waiving the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was passed by Congress in 1995, was necessary “to protect the national security interests of the United States.”

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