David M. Friedman

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David M. Friedman
David Friedman.jpg
United States Ambassador to Israel
Assumed office
May 15, 2017
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byDan Shapiro
Personal details
David Melech Friedman

(1958-08-08) August 8, 1958 (age 61)
Political partyRepublican
Tammy Sand (m. 1981)
Alma materColumbia University (BA)
New York University (JD)

David Melech Friedman (born August 8, 1958) is an American bankruptcy lawyer and the United States 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 full Senate on March 23, 2017, with a 52–46 vote,[1] officially sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on March 29 and presented his credentials on May 15.

Early life and education[edit]

Friedman was one of four children born to Morris S. Friedman (d. 2005),[2] a Temple Hillel rabbi[3] and Addi Friedman, a high school English teacher.[4][5] He grew up in North Woodmere, New York.[2][6] 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.[2][7] His mother was a high school English teacher.[4]

He graduated from Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC) high school in 1974, and earned his bachelor's degree in anthropology from Columbia University, graduating in 1978,[8] and his law degree from New York University School of Law, graduating in 1981.[2][9] He has been a member of the New York State Bar Association since 1982.[8]

Legal and philanthropic career[edit]

In 1994, he left the now-defunct law firm Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon to form the bankruptcy practice at Kasowitz, Hoff, Benson & Torres.[10][11] Friedman was promoted to name partner in 1995, and the firm was renamed Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman.[12] As the head of the creditors' rights and bankruptcy practice group,[4] Friedman advised and represented Donald Trump and The Trump Organization in bankruptcies involving his Atlantic City casinos.[13]

Friedman volunteered to head American Friends of Bet El Institutions,[14] an organization that advocates against a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and provides around $2 million per year to the Israeli settlement Bet El.[2][15][16] The organization also received donations from the family foundation of Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law.[16] In 1999, Friedman dedicated the Friedman Faculty House.[17] The settlement runs the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva, where Friedman is a columnist.[15][18] In his writings and statements, Friedman repeatedly argued in support of Israeli settlements, declaring them legal.[13][19] He has also contributed to United Hatzalah ("united rescue"), an Israeli organization that provides emergency medical services,[2] and Aleh Negev, a village for disabled Bedouin and Jewish people in southern Israel.[2][10][13]

Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign[edit]

Friedman advised Trump on Israel-related 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.[20] During the presidential election, he donated a total of $50,000 to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.[2] 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 campaign promises.[20][21] Other presidential candidates, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton,[22] had also promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem during their campaigns.[23] 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;[24] it did not recognize Jerusalem as Israeli territory.[25] Relocation would be in accordance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by Congress in 1995, which required moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999.[22] The executive branch has consistently waived implementation of the act, arguing it would have a negative impact on national security.[26] On June 1, 2017, in accordance with his predecessors, President Trump signed an executive order keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv instead of relocating it to Jerusalem.[27] However, on December 6, 2017, President Trump reversed course and issued a "Presidential Proclamation Recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel and Relocating the United States Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem."[28]

Nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Israel[edit]


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.[10][25][29] Friedman's nomination was controversial; some American Jewish, Israeli, and Palestinian individuals and advocacy groups argued against his nomination. Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, said that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and annexing West Bank settlements would lead to the "destruction of the peace process" and send the region down a path of "chaos, lawlessness, and extremism".[30] Friedman had said in an interview for Haaretz during the campaign that Trump would be open to Israel annexing parts of the West Bank.[13][31] The U.S. has opposed Israeli settlements in the West Bank since 1967.[32]

The liberal advocacy organization J Street "vehemently opposed" Friedman's nomination.[33] During the presidential campaign, Friedman had attacked J Street supporters, writing in Arutz Sheva in May 2016:

Are J Street supporters really as bad as kapos? The answer, actually, is no. They are far worse than kapos—Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel's destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas—it's hard to imagine anyone worse.[34]

When asked about his comments on J Street at the Saban Forum in early December, Friedman had stood by his statements, saying that J Street supporters were "not Jewish, and they're not pro-Israel".[35][36] The advocacy organizations Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, the Israel Policy Forum, and the New Israel Fund also opposed the nomination.[37] Six Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including Jewish representatives Jan Schakowsky, Jerrold Nadler, John Yarmuth, and Steve Cohen, urged their colleagues in the Senate to vote against Friedman.[38][39]

Five former United States Ambassadors to Israel – Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker Jr., Daniel Kurtzer, and James Cunningham – signed a letter declaring Friedman unqualified.[40]

Other Jewish and Israeli groups and individuals supported Friedman's nomination. Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union, commended Trump for the nomination as a change in the relationship between Israel and the United States from the relationship under the Obama administration.[41] Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said Friedman "has the potential to be the greatest US Ambassador to Israel ever".[37] The Republican Jewish Coalition and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, both supported the nomination.[37] Israeli politicians Tzipi Hotovely, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dani Dayan, the Consul General of Israel in New York, and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett all praised Friedman and welcomed his nomination.[37][42] The Yesha Council, the umbrella organization governing West Bank settlements, also supported the nomination, saying Friedman had a "deep love for all of the land and people of Israel, including those in Judea and Samaria," the Biblical names of the area of land which is referred to internationally as the West Bank.[37]

Senate confirmation[edit]

David Friedman is sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

Friedman's confirmation hearing was held on February 16, 2017.[43] The hearing was contentious; protesters from Americans Muslims for Palestine and the Jewish group IfNotNow were arrested after interrupting the proceedings several times.[44][45] Friedman said he believed a two-state solution is the best way to resolve the conflict.[43] He had previously questioned the need for it, stating as a representative for the Trump campaign, "a two-state solution is not a priority ... A two-state solution is a way, but it's not the only way."[32][46] He had also called it a "scam" and a "damaging anachronism" in a February 2016 column for Arutz Sheva.[47][48] He also agreed to sell off his business interests in the region and end his support for the expansion of Israeli settlements.[44] He apologized for his past language towards J Street,[43] maintaining his differences of opinion with the organization.[49] Yael Patir, the Israel director of J Street, did not accept the apology.[50]

Several Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized Friedman's fitness for the position, while the Republican members generally expressed their support.[44] On March 9, 2017, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved his nomination in a 12–9 vote. All Republicans voted in favor, along with Democrat Bob Menendez from New Jersey.[51] Friedman was officially confirmed on March 23.[52] All Democratic and independent senators except Bob Menendez and Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, voted against him. 50 out of 52 Republican senators voted for him; two Republicans did not vote.[53] On March 29, Vice President Mike Pence officially administered the oath of office, swearing in Friedman.[54] He succeeded Leslie Tsou, who served as the interim chargé d'affaires after Daniel Shapiro left the position on January 20.[55][56]


David Friedman, fourth from right in the front row of in Beit HaNassi (the President's Residence of Israel), during Donald Trump's visit to Israel, May 2017

Friedman became the U.S. ambassador to Israel on May 15, 2017 when he presented his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.[57] In 2019, The Jerusalem Post listed him as one of the world's 50 most influential Jews.[58]

Personal life[edit]

Friedman is an Orthodox Jew and is fluent in Hebrew.[10][15] He has been married to his wife, Tammy Deborah Sand, since 1981.[6] They have five children and seven grandchildren.[59] Friedman's daughter, Talia Friedman, immigrated to Israel and officially became an Israeli citizen on August 15, 2017.[60] In 1984, Friedman met President Ronald Reagan when Reagan visited Temple Hillel. Reagan was the first sitting president since George Washington to visit a synagogue.[61][62] Friedman became friends with Donald Trump in 2005, after Trump paid him a condolence call during his sitting shiva for his father.[4]


  1. ^ United States Senate (March 23, 2017). "Confirmation of David Friedman to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Israel". Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Kershner, Isabel; Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (December 16, 2016). "David Friedman, Choice for Envoy to Israel, Is Hostile to Two-State Efforts". The New York Times. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  3. ^ "Paid Notice: FRIEDMAN, RABBI MORRIS S." New York Times Archives. 25 February 2005.
  4. ^ a b c d Maltz, Judy (November 11, 2016). "What Do We Know About David Friedman, Trump's Pick for Ambassador to Israel?". Haaretz. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Galvin, Gaby (20 March 2017). "10 Things You Didn't Know About David Friedman". U.S. News and World Report.
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  9. ^ "David M. Friedman". Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. Archived from the original on March 8, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
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  20. ^ a b Greenblatt, Jason D.; Friedman, David (November 2, 2016). "Joint Statement from Jason Dov Greenblatt and David Friedman, Co-Chairmen of the Israel Advisory Committee to Donald J. Trump". Medium. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
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  22. ^ a b "Republican Senators Introduce Bill to Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem". Haaretz. January 4, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
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  24. ^ Elman, Miriam F. (December 29, 2016). "Trump's plan to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could help the peace process". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  25. ^ a b Samuelson, Kate (December 16, 2016). "Why Jerusalem Isn't Recognized as Israel's Capital". Time. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  26. ^ Hanna, Andrew; Saba, Yousef (December 15, 2016). "Will Trump move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem?". Politico. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  27. ^ Baker, Peter (June 1, 2017). "Donald Trump Won't Move Embassy to Jerusalem, at Least for Now". Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  28. ^ "Presidential Proclamation Recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel and Relocating the United States Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem". The White House.
  29. ^ Cortellessa, Eric (December 16, 2016). "Trump taps adviser Friedman to be US ambassador to Israel". The Times of Israel. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  30. ^ "Erekat: Moving US Embassy to Jerusalem will 'destroy peace process'". The Times of Israel. December 16, 2016. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  31. ^ Ravid, Barak (June 23, 2016). "David Friedman: Trump Would Support Israeli Annexation of Parts of West Bank". Haaretz. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  32. ^ a b V.V.B. (December 17, 2016). "An undiplomatic choice: Donald Trump picks a hardliner as ambassador to Israel". The Economist. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
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  34. ^ Friedman, David (May 6, 2016). "Read Peter Beinart and you'll vote Donald Trump". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  35. ^ Rosenberg, Matthew (December 15, 2016). "Trump Chooses Hard-Liner as Ambassador to Israel". The New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  36. ^ Cortellessa, Eric (December 16, 2016). "Liberal Jewish groups rage against Trump's Israel ambassador pick". The Times of Israel. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  37. ^ a b c d e "Hawks hail Trump's nominee for ambassador to Israel, doves vow a fight". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. December 16, 2016. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  38. ^ Guttman, Nathan (December 19, 2016). "Chuck Schumer Not Taking Sides on David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel". The Forward. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  39. ^ Guttman, Nathan (December 20, 2016). "Rep. Steve Cohen Rejects David Friedman — Says He's No 'Fiddler'". The Forward. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
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  42. ^ Booth, William; Eglash, Ruth (December 16, 2016). "Israel says there's never been a more right-wing U.S. ambassador than Trump's pick". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  43. ^ a b c Gaouette, Nicole; Labott, Elise (February 16, 2017). "Senate grills US envoy to Israel pick after Trump scraps two-state policy". CNN. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  44. ^ a b c Huetteman, Emmarie (February 16, 2017). "Trump's Nominee for Israel Envoy Apologizes for 'Hurtful Words'". The New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  45. ^ Schulberg, Jessica (April 20, 2017). "6 Protesters Were Arrested. Only The 2 Arab Muslims Face Misdemeanor Charges". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
  46. ^ Cortellessa, Eric (November 6, 2016). "What a Trump presidency would mean for Israel". The Times of Israel. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  47. ^ Friedman, David (October 2, 2016). "End the two-state narrative". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  48. ^ Sanchez, Raf (February 16, 2017). "Trump's Middle East policy in chaos as UN ambassador says US 'absolutely' supports two-state solution". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  49. ^ Lardner, Richard (February 16, 2017). "Trump's pick for Israel envoy goes on damage control". Associated Press. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  50. ^ "J Street Israel boss rejects David Friedman's remorse for 'kapos' remark". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. February 17, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  51. ^ Demirjian, Karoun (March 9, 2017). "Trump's pick for Israeli ambassador clears key Senate panel". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  52. ^ David Rosenberg (March 23, 2017). "It's final: David Friedman confirmed as Ambassador to Israel". Israel National News. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  53. ^ "On the Nomination (Confirmation David Friedman, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Israel)". United States Senate. March 23, 2017. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  54. ^ Tibon, Amir (March 30, 2017). "David Friedman, Staunch Supporter of the Settlements, Sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Israel". Haaretz. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  55. ^ "Charge d'Affaires Leslie M. Tsou". U.S. Embassy in Israel. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  56. ^ Sommer, Allison Kaplan (January 7, 2017). "Outgoing U.S. Envoy Dan Shapiro to Stay in Israel After Trump Takes Office". Haaretz. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  57. ^ Ahren, Raphael (May 16, 2017). "David Friedman officially takes up post as Trump's Israel envoy". The Times of Israel. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  58. ^ "50 Influencers 2019". www.jpost.com. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  59. ^ Friedman, David M. (February 16, 2017). "Statement of David M. Friedman, of New York, Nominee to be Ambassador to Israel" (PDF). United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  60. ^ "Daughter of US Ambassador David Friedman immigrates to Israel". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  61. ^ Cannon, Lou (October 27, 1984). "Reagan Courts Jews, Environmentalists". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  62. ^ Gruson, Lindsey (October 27, 1984). "Reagan Woos Jewish Voters on L.I. Visit". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2017.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Dan Shapiro
United States Ambassador to Israel