David Friedman, Staunch Supporter of the Settlements, Sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Israel

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence administers the swearing-in ceremony for David Friedman as the US ambassador to Israel on March 29, 2017.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence administers the swearing-in ceremony for David Friedman as the US ambassador to Israel on March 29, 2017.Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP

David Friedman officially became the United States' ambassador to Israel on Wednesday after taking the oath of office in front of Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence reiterated the Donald Trump administration's support for Israel prior to Friedman's swearing-in, saying that "under President Trump's leadership, the United States will always be a faithful friend" to Israel. He also said that the new envoy was "born for the job."

Friedman gave a short speech at the ceremony, his first public appearance since being confirmed by the Senate two weeks ago in a vote that was split almost entirely according to party lines. Criticized in the weeks leading up to his confirmation for a long list of past controversial statements, Friedman kept a diplomatic and neutral tone throughout his remarks.

He opened his remarks by thanking Trump "for his leadership and friendship," and said he would do everything in his ability "to justify his faith in me."

Friedman also said he has been "inspired by the leadership of secretary Tillerson," referring to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, under whom he will serve. Friedman said he was looking forward to working with him "to promote peace and stability" in the region.

An Orthodox bankruptcy lawyer who has for years worked for Trump and his real estate development business, Friedman was one of Trump's main emissaries to the Jewish community during his presidential campaign. Based on statements he has issued and columns he has penned, Friedman is positioned on the far right of the Israeli political map.

The 57-year-old Friedman, who hails from Long Island, has said the United States should not impose any solutions on Israel and that a binational state would not be a tragedy, maintaining that the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank is largely exaggerated and that they do not pose a threat to the Jewish majority.

Friedman has challenged the widespread view that Israeli settlement activity is illegal and opposes a ban on construction activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – particularly those places that would be part of a future agreement involving land swaps.

Nathan Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union, who attended the ceremony, told Haaretz that "it was wonderful to see Vice President Pence swear in Ambassador David Friedman. As they both said, this is a testament to this administration's commitment to a strong relationship with Israel."

A range of liberal Jewish groups, including J Street and the Reform movement, had opposed the nomination of Friedman.

The Trump confidant once called the Anti-Defamation League “morons” for its concerns about intimations of anti-Semitism in Trump’s rhetoric, and assailed J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, as “worse than kapos,” or Jewish Nazi collaborators.

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