Washington – President-elect Donald Trump said Thursday he will nominate campaign adviser David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer with hardline views on Israel, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the country.
In a statement issued by Trump’s transition team, Friedman said he looked forward to moving the U.S. embassy to “Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
That would fulfill a promise made by Trump on the campaign trail to relocate the diplomatic mission from Tel Aviv.
Friedman has long held conservative positions on Israel.
Earlier this year, he called supporters of the progressive Jewish advocacy group J Street “worse than kapos” for supporting a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Kapos were Jews in Nazi concentration camps who were put in charge of other inmates.
Friedman has also said in the past that he does not believe Israeli settlement activity is illegal and opposes a ban on construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Republicans have long sought to establish a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital.
Past U.S. administrations on both sides have not made that move, as Palestinians also claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Friedman also advised Trump throughout the campaign and made waves for suggesting in an interview with an Israeli newspaper that a Trump administration could support annexation of parts of the West Bank.
“The bond between Israel and the United States runs deep, and I will ensure there is no daylight between us when I’m president,” Trump said in a statement.
“As the United States’ ambassador to Israel, David Friedman will maintain the special relationship between our two countries.”
Earlier this week it was reported that the Trump team was already planning the move, including undertaking advance work on the project, after his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said it was “a very big priority for him.”
Over the course of the campaign, Friedman was outspoken on his belief that West Bank settlement activity is not an obstacle to peace and that Israel does not face a “demographic threat” to its Jewish character if it fails to separate from the Palestinians.
Friedman indicated that Trump would seek to forge a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but was open to alternatives outside the two-state framework embraced by official U.S. policy for decades.
He stated that, based on his discussions with Trump, “a two-state solution is not a priority” for the president-elect. “I don’t think he is wed to any particularly outcome. A two-state solution is a way, but it’s not the only way.”
In this matter, a source in Netanyahu’s office said the premier was “pleased” with the appointment.
“He knows David Friedman has the full confidence of President-Elect Trump and looks forward to working closely with him,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the appointment “good news for Israel.”
The left-wing Israeli daily Haaretz was less welcoming.
“By Israeli standards, Donald Trump’s designated Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is an extreme right-winger,” it commented.
“He makes Benjamin Netanyahu seem like a left-wing defeatist.”
Netanyahu’s coalition government is seen as the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
For its part, the Palestinian government has so far not formally responded, though Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat was due to address journalists later.