Friedman’s confirmation as US ambassador to Israel is a controversial move.
Last Thursday, David Friedman was approved as the new ambassador to Israel during a confirmation meeting which was followed by a senate vote. The results were 52 for and 46 against with two Republican senators abstaining and two Democrats breaking with the party line and voting in favor of Friedman.
Friedman's nomination and subsequent appointment is the latest in a string of controversial moves made by President Donald Trump's administration as he continues his efforts to set up his government and works to fill key positions in order to move forward with his agenda. With a large number of senior positions in the state department still unfilled, this is a small but notable step towards filling the 70+ ambassadorial positions that are currently vacant.
Formerly a bankruptcy lawyer that has worked with the President previously, Friedman is a notable opponent to the two-states solution to the ongoing territorial dispute between Israel and Palestine. He is a notable and vocal supporter of Israel's efforts to expand into disputed territories with the construction of new Jewish settlements and has even been identified as an illegal donor for funds that have gone towards the development of said settlements.
He has also gone on the record as saying current liberal Jews and Jewish communities in America that sided with Democrats were no better than those Jews who worked with the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s to help track and identify their fellow community members in the mass evictions and imprisonments that would eventually lead to the Holocaust. It should be noted, Friedman has since apologized for his statements and the U.S. stance on its commitment to the two-state solution presently remains unchanged.
— Jacob Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) March 26, 2017
President Trump's choice of Ambassador has not gone unnoticed, with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stating on Twitter Friedman “will be warmly welcomed as President Trump's representative and as a close friend of Israel.” This move appears to be an effort to soothe U.S. relations with Israel, which remains a key ally in the Middle East. This is in stark contrast to the end of Obama's presidency when relations turned decidedly chilly. This was caused by the U.S. abstaining from a UN vote to condemn Israel’s settlement expansion efforts instead of using their veto power to stop the motion, a move the U.S. has previously used without hesitation to shield its ally from criticism on the international stage.
Friedman's appointment along with President Trump's previous assertions that they would not be opposed to moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is quite clearly an overture to Israel and a tacit assurance the alliance is still strong and unshaken despite recent difficulties. The broader and more far reaching implications for American foreign policy in the Middle East however is yet to be determined.