President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday he will nominate bankruptcy attorney David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel, and Friedman said he looked forward to taking up his post in Jerusalem, implying a move from Tel Aviv that would mark a break in longstanding U.S. foreign policy and anger the Muslim world.
While campaigning for the presidency, Trump pledged to switch the embassy from Tel Aviv, where it has been located for 68 years, to Jerusalem, all but enshrining the city as Israel’s capital regardless of international objections.
“(Friedman) has been a long-time friend and trusted advisor to me. His strong relationships in Israel will form the foundation of his diplomatic mission and be a tremendous asset to our country as we strengthen the ties with our allies and strive for peace in the Middle East,” Trump said in a statement issued by his team on Thursday.
The Republican made clear during his campaign that he would support Israel in a number of critical areas, said he would not put pressure on Israel to engage in talks with the Palestinians.
The United States and other powers do not regard Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Other nations embassies are located in Tel Aviv – and do not recognize Israel’s annexation of Arab East Jerusalem following its capture in the 1967 Middle East war.
One of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is resolving the rival demands for Jerusalem’s future.
Palestinians regard the ancient city – which contains sites sacred to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths – as the future capital of a separate state.
Friedman, who specializes in litigation and bankruptcy law, said in the statement that he would work tirelessly to “strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had a fractious relationship with Democratic President Barack Obama, has welcomed Trump’s election, chatting with him by phone and posting a video on Facebook promoting ties with the United States.