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Controversial US ambassador takes up post in Israel

David Friedman is a staunch backer of illegal Israeli settlements. [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 May, 2017

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US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a staunch backer of illegal settlements, arrived in the country on Monday to take up his post days ahead of a visit by Trump.
US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a staunch backer of illegal settlements, arrived in the country on Monday to take up his post, days ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump.

Friedman, a controversial pick for the position, will meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday to present his credentials, Israel's Foreign Ministry said.

The Jewish-American lawyer, who worked with Trump for years in his real estate business, has in the past called the two-state solution a "distraction", and was president of a group which raised millions of dollars each year for Israeli settlements.

Trump, the parents of his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Friedman all reportedly contributed financially to Beit El settlement, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

Friedman 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.

He has also advocated breaking with decades of US policy and supports moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

His appointment comes a week before Trump is due to visit Israel on May 22 and 23, with the US president seeking ways to restart the moribund peace process.

But questions have been raised over whether Friedman will be able to put his personal views aside.

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

At that meeting, he said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see their country annex most of the occupied West Bank.

At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

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