AUSTIN, Texas — President-elect Donald Trump has selected David Friedman, a notorious opponent of the peace process in Israel and Palestine and a financial supporter of illegal Israeli settlements, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Trump, who officially nominated Friedman on Dec. 15, is unlikely to quell the accusations of corruption and nepotism that have dogged the incoming administration with this controversial pick. Friedman is a long-time friend of the president-elect and a lawyer who helped Trump file for bankruptcy in 2004 and 2009.
Friedman fervently supports the ongoing expansion of apartheid Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and many political analysts have noted that Friedman’s political views actually put him to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s far-right prime minister.
An Orthodox Jew, Friedman maintains residences in both the United States and Jerusalem. In the formal announcement for his post released by Trump’s transition team, Friedman suggested that the U.S. embassy be moved from its current location in Tel Aviv to “Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
Both Palestinians and Israelis lay claim to religious sites in Jerusalem, making the city’s future a key part of the peace process. But Friedman has been dismissive of many aspects of the peace process, including referring to the potential for a two-state solution as an “illusion” in a February editorial for Israel National News, a far-right Zionist publication.
Friedman is openly supportive of Israel’s continued annexation of the West Bank, and he financially backs Israel’s rapidly expanding but illegal settlements, which have undergone record growth in 2016 despite ongoing international condemnation.
On Dec. 19, Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman that Friedman’s nomination confirms her “worst fears” about the next president’s foreign policy.
“I think that this really confirms that Trump’s approach to Israel-Palestine is going to really reinforce apartheid, promote annexation and not show any concern for the rights of Palestinians or for Israelis who really want peace,” Vilkomerson said.
Citing Friedman’s fiscal support for violent, religious extremist West Bank settlers, Vilkomerson continued:
“I think the human cost is going to be extremely great, and we can expect that the Netanyahu government is going to try to take advantage of this appointment to really continue to push its policies of annexation and to continue to assault the rights of Palestinians.”
Other progressive Jewish voices in the media have agreed that Friedman does not represent their views. “Friedman, who has no diplomatic experience, is aligned not with American Jewish positions, but with Israel’s illegal settler movement,” Issa Amro and Ariel Gold wrote on Dec. 20.
In an op-ed for Mondoweiss, Gold, a Jewish-American activist with the anti-war group Codepink, and Amro, a Palestinian human rights defender who lives in Hebron, joined in condemning Friedman as the next Israeli ambassador. They called Friedman “out of step with American Jews and dangerous for Palestinian human rights,” and noted that “more and more American Jews are aligning with the nonviolent movement for Palestinian human rights.”
The pair concluded:
“Peace talks, protection for human rights defenders, and adherence to international law is what the the next US Ambassador to Israel should be supporting and why we are asking you to add your name to CODEPINK’s petition calling on the incoming 116th US Congress not to confirm David Friedman.”
With Congress firmly held by the GOP, activists will need to firmly remind Republicans of the importance of the peace process for the future of Middle Eastern peace and global stability if they are to have any hopes of undermining Trump’s latest divisive choice.