Speed Reads

Trump Transition

Trump's choice for Israel ambassador is his bankruptcy lawyer, a hard-liner on West Bank settlements

On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump announced he has selected David M. Friedman, a New York bankruptcy lawyer with strong ties to Israel's hawkish right, as his pick for ambassador to Israel. Friedman represented Trump in bankruptcy cases tied to his Atlantic City casinos and has been "a long-time friend and trusted adviser to me," including during the campaign, Trump said in a statement, adding that Friedman's "strong relationships in Israel will form the foundation of his diplomatic mission."

Friedman immediately set off controversy by saying he looks forward to strengthening the "unbreakable bond" between Israel and the U.S. "from the U.S. embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem." For decades, U.S. presidents have kept the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, since Jerusalem is claimed as capital by both Israel and the Palestinians; the State Department has long asserted that the city's status must be resolved in a negotiated peace deal. Friedman has also disagreed with most of the world and U.S. policy since 1967 by calling Jewish settlements in the West Bank "legal" and fair game for Israeli annexation.

The Republican Jewish Coalition cheered the selection, which requires Senate confirmation; executive director Matt Brooks called the Friedman pick "a powerful signal to the Jewish community." The more dovish Jewish community wasn't pleased with that signal. Due to his support for Israeli settlements and lack of diplomatic credentials, "Friedman should be beyond the pale for senators considering who should represent the United States in Israel," said J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami, adding that J Street is "vehemently opposed" to the pick.

At a private forum earlier this month, Friedman reiterated his public assertion in July that J Street and other Jews who support a two-state solution are "worse than kapos" — the Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II concentration camps — and said "they're not Jewish, and they're not pro-Israel." In its statement, the Trump transition team focused more on Friedman's bar mitzvah at Israel's Western Wall 45 years ago.