David Melech Friedman (born 1958 or 1959) is an American bankruptcy lawyer and the Donald Trump Administration's Ambassador to Israel. He joined the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman (then known as Kasowitz, Hoff, Benson & Torres) in 1994, where he met and represented Donald Trump, then chairman and president of The Trump Organization. He served as an advisor to Trump during his successful presidential campaign. In December 2016, President-elect Trump's transition team announced that Friedman was Trump's nominee for ambassador. His nomination was met with support from conservative Israeli and Jewish American activist groups, and opposition from liberal advocacy organizations, particularly J Street. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 23, 2017, with a 52–46 vote, officially sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on March 29, and presented his credentials on May 15 to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Friedman was one of four children born to Morris S. Friedman and Addi Friedman and grew up in North Woodmere, New York. His middle name, Melech, means "king" in Hebrew. His father was a rabbi at Temple Hillel, a Conservative synagogue in North Woodmere, and served as the head of the New York Board of Rabbis. His mother was a high school English teacher.
He earned his bachelor's degree in anthropology from Columbia University in 1978, and his law degree from New York University School of Law, graduating in 1981. He has been a member of the New York Bar since 1982.
Friedman advised Trump on Israeli and Jewish issues during his presidential campaign, co-chairing Trump's Israel Advisory Committee along with Jason D. Greenblatt, an executive vice president for The Trump Organization. During the presidential election, he donated a total of $50,000 to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. Four days prior to the election, Friedman and Greenblatt released a joint statement promising to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, one of Trump's major campaign promises. Other presidential candidates, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton, had also promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem during their campaigns, but moving the embassy would be a significant departure from U.S. policy. Since the end of the Six-Day War in 1967, the U.S. officially maintained that Jerusalem's final status should be decided by direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians; it did not recognize Jerusalem as Israeli territory. Relocation would be in accordance with the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, passed by Congress in 1995, which required moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999. The executive branch has consistently waived implementation of the act, arguing it would have a negative impact on national security.
On December 15, 2016, the transition team of President-elect Donald Trump announced that Friedman had been selected to be the nominee as the United States Ambassador to Israel. Friedman's nomination was controversial; some American, Israeli, and Palestinian individuals and advocacy groups argued against his nomination. Friedman had said in an interview with Haaretz during the campaign that Trump would be open to Israel annexing parts of the West Bank. The U.S. has opposed Israeli settlements in the West Bank since 1967.
Friedman caused a controversy when he called J-Street supporters "Kapos" in an Arutz Sheva interview, referring to the prisoners in the concentration camps that policed the rest of the prisoners. This comment drew wide outrage from many Jewish groups in America. Friedman later apologized for what he called, "hurtful words." Furthermore, Friedman has been criticized for his donations to American Friends of Bet El, which makes monetary contributions to the settlement that is built on private Palestinian land. Because of this history, his confirmation hearing in Congress was firmly partisan, receiving exactly 52 votes.
Friedman was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel by Israeli President Rivlin on May 15, 2017.
Like his predecessor, Friedman is a fluent speaker of Hebrew.
Trump’s Nominee for Israel Envoy Apologizes for ‘Hurtful Words
’ NYTimes (February 16, 2017);
Trump chooses pro-settlement hardliner as Israel envoy, BBC (December 16, 2016)