US president-elect Donald Trump has picked lawyer David Friedman, a supporter of Israeli settlements and other changes to Washington’s policies in the region, as his ambassador to the Jewish state.
Mr Friedman said he looked forward to carrying out his duties from “the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem”, even though the embassy is in Tel Aviv.
Mr Trump, like some of his predecessors, has vowed to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, a politically-charged act that would anger Palestinians who want east Jerusalem as part of their sovereign territory.
The move would also distance the US from most of the international community, including its closest allies in western Europe and the Arab world.
The president-elect said Mr Friedman would “maintain the special relationship” between the US and Israel, but the nomination sparked anger from liberal Jewish groups.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, called Mr Friedman’s nomination “reckless”, citing his support for settlements and his questioning of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
The statement does not detail how Mr Friedman could work in Jerusalem, but Trump advisers have insisted in recent days that the president-elect will follow through on his call for moving the embassy.
“He has made that promise,” aide Kellyanne Conway said on Thursday. “I can guarantee you, just generally, he’s a man who is going to accomplish many things very quickly.”
One option Trump allies have discussed would involve Mr Friedman, if confirmed by the Senate, working out of an existing US consulate in Jerusalem. According to a person who has discussed the plan with Trump advisers, the administration would essentially deem the facility the American embassy by virtue of the ambassador working there.
It is unclear how far those discussions have progressed or whether Mr Trump himself has been briefed on the proposal. His transition team did not respond to questions about the matter.
Both Bill Clinton and George Bush promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but backed away from the idea once in office.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognised. It claims the entire city as its capital but the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as the capital of their future state.
Virtually all embassies to Israel are located in or around Tel Aviv.
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said he had been in touch with Mr Trump’s staff about the embassy issue and conversations led him to believe that Mr Trump was serious about making the move.