President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly sending former Arkansas governor and failed Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to be his ambassador to Israel, where Huckabee will be charged with overseeing the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Britain’s Daily Mail on Friday quoted an unnamed source in the Trump transition team confirming both the appointment and that the embassy move would be a first item of business for ambassador Huckabee. “That’s going to happen,” the transition source said. “Governor Huckabee is going to see it through.”
Huckabee met with Trump on Friday at Trump Tower in New York City, but did not comment on the rumors of his posting to Israel, and there was no official confirmation from the Trump team. “I’m just here for the Starbucks,” Huckabee quipped before going into his meetings.
Huckabee is a strong supporter of Israel, and a frequent visitor.
He is also a bitter opponent of Palestinian nationalism. “I have to be careful saying this, because people get really upset—there’s really no such thing as a Palestinian,” Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, told a rabbi in Massachusetts in 2008, according to the New Yorker. “That’s been a political tool to try to force land away from Israel.”
Last year, in similar vein, he told the Washington Post, “The idea that they have a long history, dating back hundreds or thousands of years, is not true.”
Jason Greenblatt, a top adviser to Trump on Israel, said earlier this month that the president-elect would follow though on campaign promises to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a campaign claim made by previous presidential hopefuls but never acted on.
During the campaign, Trump called Jerusalem “the eternal capital” of Israel and said he was “100 percent for” moving the embassy there.
Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating the move of the embassy to Jerusalem, but allowed the president a waiver. Each president since then has routinely exercised the waiver, citing the national security interests of the United States, despite repeated campaign promises. For Trump to break with decades of precedent would put Washington at odds with nearly all United Nations member states.
“I think if he said it, he’s going to do it. He is different for Israel than any recent president there has been, and I think he’s a man who keeps his word. He recognizes the historical significance of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, unlike, say, UNESCO,” Greenblatt said.
Last month the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) approved a controversial resolution that ignored Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount. The decision came a week after a similar resolution was approved by the body and elicited angry responses from Israel, several world leaders and even the body’s own director-general.
In the wake of the UNESCO resolution, Huckabee wrote on his website that UN stands for “utterly nuts.”
“We rightly excoriate Holocaust deniers, so why do we offer money and support to an organization that is hardly any less anti-Semitic in its absurd denial of the Jewish people’s historic and religious heritage?” Huckabee wrote. “It’s time for America once again to stand up forcefully beside our staunch ally, Israel. The last time we were silent in the face of attempts to erase Jews from the pages of history, it didn’t turn out well.”
Many right-wing Israeli politicians have hailed Trump’s victory as an opportunity to have the embassy relocated, and to expand settlement construction. Education Minister Naftali Bennett even said Trump’s election meant Israel could officially drop its commitment to the two-state solution.
The current US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, is an Obama administration stalwart, who has worked with the president for more than eight years, ever since Barack Obama was originally campaigning for the presidency.