17 Dec 2016

Trump names lawyer Friedman as Israel envoy

9:37 am on 17 December 2016

US President-elect Donald Trump has named bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel.

Donald Trump at a thank-you rally on December 17, 2016.

US President-elect Donald Trump at a thank-you rally on Saturday. Photo: AFP

The 57-year-old lawyer represented Mr Trump in connection with his investment in Atlantic City casinos, and is strongly critical of the long-held US goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He also supports Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Representatives for Mr Trump said on Friday it was too soon to say when he would make good on his controversial campaign promise to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Mr Friedman said he was looking forward to taking up his post in Jerusalem.

A senior Palestinian official warned that such moves "will be the destruction of the peace process".

Veteran negotiator Saeb Erekat said moving the embassy and "annexing" settlements in the West Bank would send the region down a path to "chaos, lawlessness and extremism".

However, he said he did not really believe that Mr Trump would approve either action.

"The United States at the end of the day is a country of institutions, and they are guided by their national interests," he said.

Trump aide Jason Miller said the President-elect "remains firmly committed to" moving the embassy, but more details "might be premature".

The United Nations does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and the US embassy has been located in Tel Aviv for decades.

J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group based in Washington, said it was "vehemently" opposed to the nomination of Mr Friedman.

"As someone who has been a leading American friend of the settlement movement, who lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials and who has attacked liberal Jews who support two states as 'worse than kapos', Friedman should be beyond the pale for senators considering who should represent the United States in Israel," it said.

Kapos were Jewish prisoners in Nazi camps in World War II who the SS put in charge of other inmates. They have been viewed by some as complicit in the brutal treatment of other prisoners.

The Zionist Organization for America, a conservative US pro-Israel group, welcomed the nomination, saying Mr Friedman had "the potential to be the greatest US ambassador to Israel ever".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not enjoyed warm relations with Democratic President Barack Obama, has welcomed Mr Trump's election.

- BBC / Reuters

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