Donald Trump has reportedly picked David Friedman, an Orthodox Jewish lawyer who supports moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as his ambassador to Israel. Friedman, in addition to having helped Trump make money bankrupting his own casinos, has called Barack Obama an anti-Semite and referred to members of J-Street, a liberal Jewish advocacy group, as “far worse” than kapos, the term for Jews who policed fellow prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.
Friedman has, unsurprisingly, no diplomatic experience and no qualifications aside from his religious affiliation and ability to speak Hebrew. According to the recent babblings of our equally unqualified president-elect, Friedman, if confirmed, may be working most closely with Jared Kushner, who also holds the esteemed qualification of being a Jew that Donald Trump knows. Friedman, echoing an extremely troubling tendency on the Jewish far-right (and even, at least concerning Keith Ellison’s DNC bid, within the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League), has been more concerned with framing members of the left as “anti-Semitic” than he is with the global rise of straight-up Nazis.
Friedman opposes a two-state solution, and supports Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, which most of the world considers a violation of international law. Al Jazeera reported that Friedman, at a pro-Trump rally in Jerusalem, spread the false conspiracy theory that Clinton aide Huma Abedin has “close connections to the Muslim Brotherhood,” as well as ties to Al-Qaeda.
In a statement, J-Street said it was “vehemently opposed” to the nomination, referring to Friedman as “someone who has been a leading American friend of the settlement movement, who lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials.”
The U.S., along with virtually every other country, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv because moving it to Jerusalem, which is disputed territory, would effectively blitz the peace process; past presidents including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both backed out of pre-inauguration promises to move the U.S. embassy there. “We’d never been at this point before, where the guy’s already won and he conveyed it was a high priority for him,” David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute of Near East policy, told Politico.
The New York Times reports that during a sermon in the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem—one of the holiest sites in the world for Sunni Muslims—senior Palestinian cleric Sheikh Ikrama Sabri said that if the U.S. moved their embassy to Jerusalem, “the U.S. is declaring a new war on the Palestinians and all Muslim Arabs.”
Make America Safe Again, indeed.