Trump's Israel Ambassador Hopes to Work From Jerusalem, Says ZOA President

While the White House claims that a decision has yet to be reached regarding the possibility of moving the U.S. embassy, Morton Klein says Friedman told him he expects to work from Jerusalem as soon as he begins his term.

David Friedman arrives at a private fundraiser for then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the Manhattan borough of New York City, June 21, 2016.
MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

NEW YORK - David Friedman, U.S. President Donald Trump's appointed ambassador to Israel, expects he will work from Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, even before any possible announcement on moving the embassy, Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein told Haaretz on Monday.

Since Trump announced his choice of Friedman as ambassador to Israel, Friedman has kept out of the limelight but Klein says that he has spoken to Friedman since his nomination, and that Friedman anticipates to work from Jerusalem.  

“Of course, he is a friend, I know him very well," Klein told Haaretz. "His plans are to be the ambassador, and work from Jerusalem, not out of Tel Aviv."

When asked to clarify if Friedman had indeed spoken about working from Jerusalem starting from the beginning of his term as ambassador, Klein said, "He told me he plans to work from Jerusalem, right from the beginning."

Klein became the first representative of any Jewish group to meet with Trump administration officials on Monday in a sit down with assistant to the president, Anthony Scaramucci. According to Klein, "The meeting went well, there will be other meetings."

Sheldon Adelson, Miriam Adelson and Morton A. Klein at the 2014 ZOA gala dinner.
David Drimer

The two were expected to discuss issues relating to Israel and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Earlier today, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said at a press conference that the administration was "at the very beginning stages of even discussing" the subject of moving the U.S embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, signaling that the move may not be immediate. Yet, Klein says Friedman is planning on working from Jerusalem de facto even before the official move.

“Look, he has an apartment in Jerusalem that he owns, there is a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem - one way or another, he can work from Jerusalem," Klein told Haaretz. "I hope it will be from a formal embassy that will be moved, but one way or another, he can work from Jerusalem, even if it is not moved immediately, and it should be moved immediately."

ZOA is the first Jewish American organization to have an official meeting with the administration, as first reported by the Forward, and according to Klein, “many” in the administration share his views on Israel.

He added that he talks regularly to people in the administration, including Trump’s Chief of Staff, Steve Bannon, who was invited to speak at the ZOA gala a few months ago.

“I have a great relationship with him, we speak on the phone, he asks me about Israel," said Klein, adding that he specifically talks with Bannon about the moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

“I tell him my opinions about the embassy - I believe it should be moved immediately. As I have said to many people in the administration, you cannot allow threats of terrorism to control policy. If you do, you’ll get more terrorism. The only way you can reduce violence is to make it clear that violence will not work. If the Ku Klux Klan said ‘Blacks should not move into white neighborhoods, or we will come and burn down your houses and kill you,’ should we say to Blacks, better not move? Of course not, we say of course you move, and we will fight the KKK, and they have to learn that these threats of violence will not work."

Klein also added that there are no logistical impediments to the relocation of the embassy. “What is stopping it is the fear, fear of Muslim terrorists." 

Both the nomination of Bannon and Friedman have generated criticism from Jewish American organizations, ZOA being a notable exception.

“None of the Jewish groups that I’m aware of have publically supported David Freidman. This is a wonderful Zionist, and the Arabs scream about him, yet the Jews don’t (support him), except the ZOA. What is wrong with Jewish organizations? I have endorsed him publicly everywhere I can," said Klein.