Israeli supporters of President-elect Donald Trump on Friday enthusiastically welcomed his decision to appoint David Friedman as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel.
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Mark Zell, co-Chair of Republicans Overseas Israel, told Haaretz that "David Friedman will rejuvenate the relationship between Israel and the United States. This is wonderful news for all of Israel and the Jewish people."
Friedman, who has been consistently right-wing in his support for Israel, has, among other statements, expressed his support for Trump's promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and putting the issue front and center on the current U.S.-Israel agenda.
According to the Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by Congress in October, 1995, the Embassy of the United States in Israel was to have been moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999, and there are provisions for withholding funds earmarked for the State Department until the embassy is officially opened. However, Section 7 of the Act allows for a sitting president to semi-annually waive implementation of the law every six months, based on 'national security concerns" – and every president since enactment of the law has, indeed, implemented this waiver.
Zell, who said the Republicans in Israel "know Friedman well and admire him," is confident that Trump will not sign this waiver and will move the embassy "soon. Trump and Friedman both know that this is a fundamental issue, not only symbolically. Implicit in the decision to move the embassy is the new administration's recognition of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel."
Furthermore, said Zell, the appointment of Friedman proves that "Trump and his team are willing to challenge thinking, to think out of the box. The decision to keep the embassy out of Jerusalem dates back to before the State of Israel was established.
"The countries of the world may not like this," Zell continued, "but they will accept it, just like they accepted the unification of Jerusalem in 1967 and the annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981. And, if not, by appointing Friedman and moving the embassy to Jerusalem, he is showing the world that the U.S. will have Israel's back, no matter what the rest of the world thinks."
The embassy can be established in Jerusalem quickly, Zell added, "because there isn't even a need to put a spade in the ground. The facility in Jerusalem that serves as a consulate is more than adequate."
Likud activist Nimrod Zuta, a Haifa University student and the self-appointed head of the Trump Blue and White movement, a loosely organized group that broke away from the official Republicans Overseas Israel during the elections, called the appointment of Friedman "historic."
Friedman, Zuta said in a telephone interview, is a Jew who supports the Jews' rights to the West Bank. "Neither Trump nor Friedman will be beholden to any silly, so-called symmetry between the rights of the Palestinians and the rights of the Jewish people. By moving the embassy to Jerusalem, he is telling the Palestinians and the world that Israel's claims are just and legitimate."
The decision, Zuta continued, has "theological implications. By moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Trump, as the head of the premier Christian nation, is validating Judaism as a religion."
While all previous presidents have employed the Section 7 waiver, Zuta is convinced that Trump will not. "He is a rich man, and does not need the financial support of pressure groups like AIPAC or left-wing groups. He will do what is right, like moving the embassy to Jerusalem."
Neither Zell nor Zuta expressed any concern about the Palestinian response to the decision to move the embassy. "If, for security reasons, like not letting the Palestinians into Jerusalem, Trump thinks he needs to provide the Palestinians with services – he can build them a consulate in Ramallah, or wherever. Donald Trump knows that neither America, nor Israel should cow to the Palestinians because they threaten us with terror."
Added Zuta, "The Palestinians will threaten and maybe even act with terror, no matter what. Their hatred of Israel and the Jews doesn't depend on the location of the embassy. But with Trump behind us, we don't have to back down anymore because of their threats."
Zell also noted that while moving the embassy to Israel "is a fundamental issue in and of itself, it is also a signal about two other central issues in the Israel-U.S. relationship.
"The appointment of Friedman and moving the embassy are proof that the U.S. will maintain a 'hands-off' policy towards Israel. Israel will be responsible for its own decisions and the U.S. will support us. Finally, the ball is in the court of the Israeli government, which will really have to come to terms with their responsibility for the future of Israel and the Jewish people and make decisions about Jerusalem and Samaria. And the U.S. will support our decisions. Second, with regard to military assistance, it is clear that the new administration will not be bound by the limitations and strings that Obama attached to the aid."
Lisa Jacobson, a U.S. citizen, now retired, who has lived in Israel for some 40 years, agrees with Zell. Jacobson told Haaretz that she views the appointment of Friedman as "one of the most important events since the establishment of the State of Israel. We will have the right to make our own decision, without being afraid of what the goyim (non-Jews) will say, because the U.S. will support us no matter what."
Shoshana Greenbaum, also a U.S. citizen who came to live in Israel 35 years ago, told Haaretz that with the appointment of Friedman, "I don't feel a split between my countries, the U.S. and Israel, anymore. Barak Hussein Obama put a wedge between us, but now I feel united again."
On Republican-oriented social media, and especially on Trump Blue and White, the Facebook page established by Zuta and his supporters during the elections, which, Zuta said, continues to be active and has nearly 20,000 supporters, comments ranged from supportive to triumphant. "It's great to see the lefties freaking out about Friedman," read one comment, which received hundreds of likes within a few hours.
Prominent on the page at the time of writing this report was a meme, including the frog image that white supremacists have popularized on social media. Against the background of the mosque of Omar, on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, the caption reads, "Trump is looking for a site in Jerusalem for the embassy: I know the perfect place."