West Bank settlers laud Trump pick for ambassador to Israel

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2016 9:27 AM

JERUSALEM (AP) — A top Jewish settler leader on Friday lauded U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's selection for ambassador to Israel, saying his choice of David Friedman will provide settlers with a "direct line to the American president."

Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, said Friedman has a "deep love for all of the land and people of Israel, including those in Judea and Samaria" — using the West Bank's biblical names — and would offer a welcome change to decades of American envoys who viewed the settlements as an obstacle to peace.

Friedman, an Orthodox Jewish attorney from Long Island, has long ties to Israel's settler movement and has supported positions on the far-fight of Israel's political spectrum. He has previously suggested that Trump would support Israel annexing parts of the West Bank, anathema to longstanding American policy. Friedman has also served as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, which provides support for that settlement.

Revivi noted that Beit El is a small settlement on the outside of the major blocs in the Israeli consensus, and said Friedman's support for it was indicative of his overall support for the settler enterprise. American ambassadors to Israel have traditionally avoided even visiting settlements, but Revivi said that with Friedman in place "we will have a welcome ear to hear what we want to say and a direct line to the American president."

The Palestinians want the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war — for their future state. Nearly 600,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

One of Trump's main campaign pledges was to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a charged act that would anger Palestinians who want east Jerusalem as their future capital. The move would likely draw criticism from most of the international community, including the U.S.'s closest allies in Western Europe and the Arab world.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not internationally recognized and claims the entire city as its capital. But virtually all embassies to Israel are located in or around Tel Aviv.

In accepting the post, Friedman said he looked forward to carrying out his duties from "the U.S. embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem."