President-elect Donald Trump has picked David Friedman, a 57-year-old bankruptcy lawyer and longtime advisor, to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, the Trump transition team said in a statement on Thursday.
Like Washington’s current envoy to Israel, Dan Shapiro, Friedman is a fluent Hebrew speaker. Friedman served on Trump’s Israel advisory committee during the campaign and worked with the president-elect on his real estate development business for many years.
“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 the statement. “As the United States’ Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman will maintain the special relationship between our two countries.”
Friedman will work from “the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem,” the statement added, signaling that the new administration may follow through on a campaign promise to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Similar promises had been made by previous presidential candidates including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
US law has required the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem since the Clinton era. In 1995, Congress passed legislation, with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses, requiring that the American embassy be moved to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999. However, the president has the authority to waive the order for six-month periods.
Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital in 1949, shortly after its independence. Its legislature, Supreme Court, and executive government offices are all located there, as are the President’s and Prime Minister’s official residences.
In an August interview with Ynet, Friedman was cautious about the possibility of relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem. “I think the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem is logistically something that can’t be done on the first day [but] I think that will happen in due course,” he said.
In the interview, Friedman also suggested that the new administration would demand that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet his obligation to promote peace with Israel. “The message to Abbas is that you have a burden that you have to carry to be taken seriously as a potential nation state,” Friedman said. “You haven’t met that burden yet. That includes renouncing violence, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, creating infrastructure where money and funds are handled in a non-corrupt manner.”
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