Trump appoints 'Zionist hardliner' as ambassador to Israel

Trump appoints 'Zionist hardliner' as ambassador to Israel
Donald Trump has appointed a 'hardliner' with ties to Israel's far-right as the US ambassador to the controversial state, in a move that could setback the peace process.
3 min read
16 December, 2016
Donald Trump has voiced support for Israel throughout the campaign [AFP]

President-elect Donald Trump nominated a pro-Israeli settlement hardliner and campaign adviser who backs moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as ambassador to Tel Aviv.

In a statement released on Thursday, Trump appointed bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman to his expanding administration - a hardliner with no diplomatic experience and one which has supported pro-Israeli policies that Washington has described as illegitimate and an obstacle to peace.  

Friedman has close ties to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which much of the international community consider illegal and have proven to be a roadblock in the peace process.

The move was described as "reckless" by leftist pro-Israel, US-based organisation J Street which sharply criticised Trump's nomination of Friedman.

"This nomination is reckless, putting America's reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk," the group's president Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement.

"Friedman should be beyond the pale for Senators considering who should represent the United States in Israel."

Friedman has close ties to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which much of the international community consider illegal

During the campaign David Friedman voiced support for settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank despite its devastating affects on the Palestinian people.

On Thursday, Friedman alleged he wanted to work for peace and looked forward to "doing this from the US embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem" - a comment which stands firmly against much of the world, including the US.

During the campaign, Trump met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and afterward pledged to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital" if elected.

Trump has not repeated that promise since winning the presidency on November 8, however his adviser Kellyanne Conway called the move "a very big priority" for him this week.

The move would break with Washington's policy of maintaining its diplomatic presence in Tel Aviv.

Trump pledged to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital" if elected

 The US and most UN member states do not recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital - the city's status is one of the thorniest issue of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump did not specifically comment on the potential relocation in the statement on Thursday, however said Friedman would "maintain the special relationship" between the US and Israel.

Asked during the campaign whether he believed in a two-state solution, the basis of more than two decades of peace negotiations, Friedman had said Trump was "tremendously skeptical."

"A Trump administration will never pressure Israel into a two-state solution or any other solution that is against the wishes of the Israeli people," Friedman told a Trump rally in Jerusalem in October.

The Israeli right has welcomed such statements and seized on Trump's victory to promote its cause - including, for some, a call to bury the two-state solution once and for all and destroying prospects of peace for Palestinans.