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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

President Trump’s nomination of David Friedman for the position of United States ambassador to Israel comes at a critical time. The Middle East is in turmoil, but together with the erosion of stability there are new opportunities as well.

Iranian expansionism has created the potential for a strategic realignment of the traditional regional allies of the United States into a unified bulwark against their common enemy, Iran. The United States is in the position to orchestrate this strategic regional realignment in which Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates join together and present a united front to stymie Iran. Israel and its Arab neighbors sitting on the same side of the table to address their common strategic concerns may well also create a more positive environment for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.

This realignment would have been unthinkable during the Obama administration, which adopted the misguided policy of ignoring the United States’ traditional allies and courting Iran. In order for Israel to participate in this realignment, however, it will need to perceive a sense of genuine friendship and backing from the United States, a sense that was sorely lacking during the Obama administration.

Friedman is uniquely qualified to provide that sense of friendship and backing and would be an excellent choice as the United States ambassador to Israel. Not only does he possess extraordinary intelligence, he also is intimately familiar with the region, speaks Hebrew fluently, is at home with Israeli culture and is sensitive to Israel’s concerns. While some of Friedman’s past pronouncements were decidedly intemperate, for which he himself has expressed genuine regret, they do not define him as a person, and they should not disqualify him from ably serving as Ambassador.

The appointment of Friedman as United States ambassador to Israel would be a giant step in the direction of capitalizing, for the benefit of both the United States and Israel, on the new opportunities for dramatic change presented by the current situation in the Middle East.

By Rabbi Menachem Genack

 Rabbi Menachem Genack is CEO of Orthodox Union Kosher and the author of “Letters to President Clinton.”