Controversial new US envoy to Israel takes up role ahead of Trump's visit
"Mazal Tov [congratulations] to the new American ambassador to Israel Mr. David Friedman who presented credentials today," tweeted Meron Reuben, the Israeli foreign ministry official in charge of diplomatic protocol, using a Hebrew phrase to greet the new envoy.
As a practicing Orthodox Jew, Friedman immediately went to pray at Jerusalem's Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, upon arrival.
His arrival precedes an official visit by U.S. President Donald Trump on May 22 amid much discussion about Trump's stance on the Palestine-Israel issue, including a potential peace deal and a controversial relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump's scheduled visit has already become mired in controversy after reports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested Trump did not move the embassy -- despite Israel's insistence that Jerusalem is its capital -- which Netanyahu has vociferously denied by publishing minutes from their meeting in Washington D.C. apparently showing his support for the move.
Israel's Channel 2 also reported Monday that a U.S. official angered Israeli counterparts by telling them they could not have any role in a Trump visit to the Western Wall, because it was in the West Bank.
While the Western Wall is in Jerusalem's Old City, internationally considered land occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel contends that Jerusalem was "unified" as the Israeli capital during the war and that the Western Wall is inherently linked to Judaism.
Friedman himself was a controversial candidate as U.S. ambassador because of his support for illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank as well as derogatory statements made against liberal Jewish groups.