NEW YORK, Dec. 16 (UPI) — President-elect Donald Trump said he will nominate campaign adviser David Friedman, an Israeli hardliner, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel.
“The two nations have enjoyed a special relationship based on mutual respect and a dedication to freedom and democracy,” a statement from Trump’s transition team said. “With Mr. Friedman’s nomination, President-elect Trump expressed his commitment to further enhancing the U.S.-Israel relationship and ensuring there will be extraordinary strategic, technological, military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.”
Friedman’s views contrast decades-long American policy on Israel. In one immediate example following his nomination, Friedman said he looked forward to serving as ambassador “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
The U.S. Department for State for decades — through Democratic and Republican administrations — has insisted the status of Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their rightful capital, is a matter that needs to be resolved through an peace agreement. The U.S. embassy is in Tel Aviv.
Friedman also believes it is not illegal for Israel to annex occupied territory in the West Bank and supports building Jewish settlements there — a view opposing decades long U.S. policy. Friedman has called into question a two-state solution.
Friedman is a bankruptcy lawyer who was no diplomatic experience. He served as counsel for Trump over the president-elect’s connection in his investment in Atlantic City casinos, over which Trump filed for business bankruptcy four times between 1991 and 2009.
Trump’s team statement said Friedman is a fluent speaker of Hebrew and a “lifelong student of Israel’s history.”
Current U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has urged Trump’s upcoming administration to maintain current U.S. policy.
“Every government, every U.S. administration has looked at that question, has determined that the embassy is where it should be,” Shapiro said. “And I can’t speculate beyond that.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks praised Friedman’s appointment as a “powerful signal to the Jewish community.”
The progressive J Street lobbying organization, which supports a two-state solution, said it was “vehemently opposed to the nomination.”