Donald Trump says he wants to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and in David Friedman, the president-elect has nominated an ambassador to Israel who reflects the belief that Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital — nothing more and nothing less.
Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who has for years represented Trump and his real estate development business, speaks Hebrew and intends “to work tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region,” the president-elect’s transition team announced in a statement. He also looks “forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
It is always good news when someone who has been so clear in his support for Israel has attained the position of ambassador. But, as everyone knows, Middle East problems defy easy answers. Friedman has funded building in West Bank settlements and supports Israel annexing part of the West Bank, positions that put him to the right of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Friedman has voiced frustration with Israel’s perceived failure to jail for treason Muslims who engage in alleged incitement. And he has called liberal American Jews who support a two-state solution as “worse than kapos,” a reference to Jews who were forced to serve the Nazis.
We understand that things are said during campaigns — by candidates, their proxies, of which Friedman was one, and supporters — that are sometimes more extreme than really intended in order to make a point. We hope the same holds true with Friedman. We hope he and the president-elect keep an open mind regarding possible solutions to what is clearly one of the most vexing international puzzles, rather than support some of the more one-sided approaches with which Friedman has been associated in the past.
But we really don’t know what to expect, since, as with many things regarding Trump, we are short on specifics about the president-elect’s plans. In late October, Friedman published an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post in which he outlined what Hillary Clinton was likely to do in her first 100 days as president — and then warned that if Clinton was elected, life in the United States for pro-Israel Jews would become as threatening as life for Jews in France. In the lengthy piece, however, Friedman said very little about what Trump would do if he was elected, other than move the embassy.
The U.S.-Israel relationship — and Israel’s survival — depends on so much more than a diplomatic mission’s address. There are complex policy, security and diplomatic issues that present a veritable minefield for even the most experienced statesmen. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. We anxiously await details of the president-elect’s plans for the long-term strengthening of the U.S.-Israel relationship and his plans for bringing security to Israel and peace to the region.