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Trump's Pro-Settlement Ambassador to Israel Panned as "Beyond the Pale"

David Friedman's appointment 'indicates that the Trump administration has aligned itself with the farthest right elements of the Israeli government'

David Friedman, left, with Donald J. Trump and his daughter Ivanka in 2010. (Photo: Bloomberg)

President-elect Donald Trump's choice for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, conservative hardliner David Friedman, "indicates that the Trump administration has aligned itself with the farthest right elements of the Israeli government," progressive group Jewish Voice for Peace said Friday. 

Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who supports Israeli settlement construction, said in a statement from the Trump transition team that he looks forward to doing the job "from the U.S. embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem."

Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a right-wing priority that opponents warn "could lead to an outbreak of violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in particular, and in the Arab and Muslim world as a whole." As Jonathan Cook explained last month, doing so "would effectively rubber-stamp Israel's illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, the expected capital of a Palestinian state."

The far-right U.S. House Freedom Caucus included moving the embassy to Jerusalem in its list of tasks for Trump to accomplish in his first 100 days in office.

Indeed, Trump's election led Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett to declare in November: "The era of a Palestinian state is over." Friedman's selection would appear to support that assessment.

In an August column for the Israeli news website Arutz Sheva, which is identified with the settler movement, the Orthodox Jew described the two-state solution—"a policy that even Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu endorses," left-leaning Americans for Peace Now pointed out—as "an illusion." Statements like that one show Friedman "is positioned on the far right of the Israeli political map" and is in fact "more hardline in his views" than Netanyahu, Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev wrote on Friday.

Friedman has also said he does not view Israeli West Bank settlements as an obstacle to peace, and once likened Jewish supporters of a two-state solution to "kapos"—Jews who helps Nazi guards at concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Citing this remark, the left-wing, pro-Israel group J Street vowed to fight Friedman's Senate confirmation. "As someone who has been a leading American friend of the settlement movement, who lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials, and who has attacked liberal Jews who support two states as 'worse than kapos,' Friedman should be beyond the pale for senators considering who should represent the United States in Israel," the group said. "This nomination is reckless, putting America's reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk."

Jewish Voice for Peace executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson added: "Friedman's appointment is a distressing signal that the new administration will give the Israeli government a free hand to deepen its fundamentally undemocratic and abusive control over Palestinian land, resources, and rights."


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