Attorney David Friedman was approved as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel during a confirmation meeting, which was followed by a 52-46 senate vote.
Friedman, who has no prior diplomatic experience, is a former bankruptcy lawyer who worked with Trump in that capacity related to casinos in the past. Friedman is a notable opponent to the two-states solution to the ongoing territorial dispute between Israel and Palestine, reports WRN. In his columns, Friedman called the two-state solution an "illusion." He is a vocal supporter of Israel's efforts to expand into disputed territories with the construction of new Jewish settlements, and was identified as an illegal donor for funds that have gone toward the development of said settlements.
He also reportedly went on-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 1940s to help track and identify their fellow community members in the mass evictions and imprisonments that eventually led to the Holocaust. Friedman then apologized for his statements.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Twitter that Friedman "will be warmly welcomed as President Trump's representative and as a close friend of Israel."
The lawyer reportedly is an Orthodox Jew, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, who maintains a part-time residence in Israel.
Friedman's nomination prompted several controversies, reports Yahoo. Democrats voiced their concerns about Friedman's comments earlier opposing a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Friedman also advocated for Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He apologized for his past comments during his confirmation hearing, and also promised to uphold the U.S. policy under the Trump administration, according to NBC News.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he believed Friedman's past opinions would affect "his ability to represent the United States as a credible facilitator of the peace process," the Hill reported.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., also expressed his concern over this nomination and said Friedman's "past conduct demonstrates that he lacks the tools one needs to be a good diplomat," reports NBC News.
NPR reports the U.S. position has long been that the legal status of Jerusalem is yet to be determined. A law passed by Congress in 1995 requires the U.S. to move its embassy to Jerusalem but allows presidents to waive that requirement, which all have done. During his campaign, Trump pledged to move the embassy.
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told Ha'aretz: "[Friedman] has the potential to be the greatest U.S. Ambassador to Israel ever. No previous ambassador appreciates the political, historic, legal and religious rights of the Jews to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem like David. Yet he respects and understands the beliefs and hopes and dreams of the political left in Israel and America."
However, The New Israel Fund, which supports progressive social programs in Israel, had this reaction about the lawyer: "[Friedman] represents extreme fringe views that are appalling to most American Jews. Those of us concerned about Israel and the cause of peace there should be alarmed that Mr. Friedman will be representing America's interests."
"The position [Friedman] advocates is more extreme than any government of Israel has stated. We have serious concerns about someone who says annexing the West Bank to Israel is a viable way to preserve Israel's Jewish and democratic essence," said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish denomination in the U.S.
President Donald Trump still has 70-plus vacant ambassadorial positions.