by Itunuoluwa Adebo
Controversial new US ambassador to Israel David Friedman arrived in the country , Monday to take up his post, days ahead of a visit by US President Trump.
The Israeli foreign ministry confirmed the arrival of Friedman, who has been a strong supporter of Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank. Friedman is due to present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday.
The Jewish-American bankruptcy lawyer has expressed scepticism over the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the basis of years of US peace efforts. He has also advocated breaking with decades of precedent and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem, a prospect deeply alarming to Palestinians.
Trump vowed to move the embassy to Jerusalem during his campaign, but has since backed away, saying the move was still being looked at.He’s expected to visit Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on May 22 and 23.
Speaking at a pre-election rally in October in support of Trump on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, Friedman said the now US president would fire US State Department “lifers” who refused to move the embassy. He 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.
His appointment comes as Trump seeks ways to restart moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and questions have been raised over whether Friedman will be able to put his personal views aside.