The co-chair of Republicans Overseas in Israel on Saturday hailed the appointment of David Friedman as the United States’ next ambassador to Israel and his declared intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
“As Israelis, we are delighted to welcome Mr. Friedman as the new US Ambassador to Israel,” Marc Zell said in a statement. “Especially since he made it clear, at our event in October, that he and the Trump administration will move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.”
Friedman, 57, an Orthodox Jew who is fluent in Hebrew, had spoken after Zell at a pre-election rally held by Republicans Overseas in Jerusalem on October 26.
His appointment last week drew praise from right-wing Israeli politicians, such as Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, alongside furious condemnations by dovish American Jewish groups such as J Street.
President-elect Donald Trump and his designated envoy to Israel could easily move the embassy to Jerusalem at no cost to the American taxpayer, Zell said.
“Here’s how: First, the US law on the books, passed under president Bill Clinton, states that America must move its embassy to Jerusalem. Every 6 months since that law was passed, each president — most recently Barack Obama just a few days ago — signed a waiver to, in effect, override US law. All Mr. Trump has to do, in less than six months, is nothing,” he said. “The US law, which is in effect now, will not be overridden, and the US embassy can be moved to Jerusalem the next day.”
Added Zell: “All they need to do is change the sign on the US Consulate in Jerusalem to say ‘US Embassy.’ I know many Israelis who would gladly sponsor that sign; myself included.”
Zell, who initially opposed Trump’s candidacy but earlier this year embraced the Manhattan billionaire and campaigned relentlessly on his behalf, was referring to the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act. According to that law, the US administration must recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The law, however, allows for the president to waive the move if deemed detrimental to American national security interests. Since its passing, every US president — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — has signed the waiver every six months, despite Bush and Clinton having promised to move the embassy during their respective campaigns.