U.S. policy on Israel almost always manages to divide and stoke controversy, and President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel is no exception. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer with no diplomatic experience and a strong supporter of expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has generated outrage on the left and exaltation on the right—in both the United States and Israel.
Friedman has overtly rejected any prospects for a two-state solution and demonized American Jews critical of Israeli policy. He once called members of J Street—a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” progressive lobbying group—“worse than kapos,” the term for Jews who were assigned administrative or supervisory duties in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. Like Trump, Friedman has pledged to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he calls Israel’s “eternal capital.” While Washington has long denounced settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace, Freidman vocally supports it. He has also maintained that a potential Israeli annexation of the West Bank would be legal under international law.
But while Friedman’s positions, which stand in stark contrast to decades of U.S. policy on Israel, seem in line with Benjamin Netanyahu’s, the Israeli prime minister might want to think twice about celebrating his nomination.