Controversial new US ambassador arrives in Israel

Controversial new US ambassador arrives in Israel

JERUSALEM: Con­troversial new US ambassador to Israel David Fried­man arrived in the country on Monday to take up his post, days ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump.

Friedman, due to present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday, has been a strong supporter of Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

After his arrival in Tel Aviv, Friedman visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, praying there and kissing the sacred site, the holiest location where Jews are allowed to pray.

Friedman, a frequent visitor to Jerusalem, did not comment to reporters, but did speak near the wall with Steven Tyler of American rock band Aerosmith, in town for a concert.

Jewish-American bankruptcy lawyer Friedman has expressed scepticism over the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the basis of years of US peace efforts.

He has also advocated breaking with decades of precedent by moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem, a prospect deeply alarming to Palestinians.

Trump vowed to move the embassy to Jerusalem during his campaign, but has since backed away, saying the move was still being looked at.

He will have to decide by the beginning of June whether to continue with the policy of his predecessors and again block the embassy’s transfer.

Jerusalem: David Friedman, the new US ambassador to Israel, visits the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.—AFP
Jerusalem: David Friedman, the new US ambassador to Israel, visits the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.—

Trump is expected to visit Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on May 22 and 23.

Speaking at a pre-election rally in October in support of Trump on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, Friedman said the now US president would fire US State Department “lifers” who refused to move the embassy.

He has also clashed with American Jewish progressive groups, notably dubbing liberals “worse than kapos”, a reference to Jewish collaborators who worked as guards in Nazi concentration camps.

His appointment comes as Trump seeks ways to restart moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and questions have been raised over whether Friedman will be able to put his personal views aside.

Trump himself has sent mixed signals over how he will approach the decades-old conflict.

He cast uncertainty over years of international efforts to foster a two-state solution when he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February.

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