Donald Trump's pick to serve as ambassador to Israel may be his most controversial transition appointment yet, with critics accusing bankruptcy attorney David Friedman of holding "extreme fringe views" that could worsen relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Friedman is an Orthodox Jew who has a part-time home in Israel and does not have diplomatic experience, NPR reported. He's been a vocal supporter of the "settlement" movement in Palestinian territories, has said that a two-state solution to peace isn't possible, and has advocated for Israeli annexation of the West Bank, the larger of the two Palestinian territories.
Hardliners praised Trump's pick.
Friedman "has the potential to be the greatest U.S. Ambassador to Israel ever," said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America.
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The 71-year-old attorney "will strengthen the bond between [the U.S. and Israel] and advance the cause of peace within the region," the Republican Jewish Coalition wrote in a statement.
Others were less charitable in their descriptions of Friedman, who compared Americans who want a two-state solution to "kapos" -- Jews who were picked by the Nazis to guard other Jews in concentration camps -- in a June 2016 column he wrote for Arutz Sheva.
"They are just smug advocates of Israel's destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas -- it's hard to imagine anyone worse," Friedman wrote.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz described Friedman as taking a position "on the far right of the Israeli political map," even going to far as to call the U.S. State Department -- which would be his employer as ambassador -- anti-Semitic because the American embassy is in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.
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The selection of Friedman "should be beyond the pale," read a statement from J Street, a pro-Israel lobbying firm in Washington that supports a two-state solution and opposes the practice of Israel annexing Palestinian land to form new "settlements."
Like other critics, the group criticized Friedman for his lack of experience on the world stage, saying he "lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials," the New York Times reported.
Others said they worried that if a Friedman-advised Trump administration upends decades of U.S. policy and moves the embassy to Jerusalem, it could inflame tensions with the Palestinians to levels that haven't been seen since the second Intifada, a five-year uprising that saw the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians and thousands of innocent Palestinians.
“If an American ambassador stakes out positions that further embolden an already triumphalist settler elite, then that is likely to cause headaches for American national security interests across the region and even for Israel’s own security establishment,” Daniel Levy, a former peace negotiator, told the Times. “Especially an ambassador committed to the ill-advised relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.”