New U.S. ambassador to Israel presents credentials

JERUSALEM, May 16 (Xinhua) -- The controversial new U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, presented his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday, officially starting his term.

A ceremony was held at the President's Residency in Jerusalem, a day after Friedman arrived in Israel and days before President Donald Trump's regional visit.

Friedman, who owns a home in Jerusalem, is a known strong supporter of the Israeli West Bank settlements, a territory which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war and has occupied ever since.

However, the settlements are illegal under international law.

Addressing the press following the ceremony, Rivlin said that Israel looks forward to welcoming President Trump next week.

"His visit is very important. It is a sign of the unbreakable bond between Israel and the U.S.," he said, according to a statement released by the President's Residence.

"We look forward to working with the new administration to find new ways and to think of new ideas, of how to move forward and build trust between Israelis and Palestinians," he added.

Friedman thanked Trump for appointing him to the job and said that "the president has chosen Israel as a site for his first international visit this coming week. His love for and commitment to the State of Israel is rock-solid and enjoys his highest priority."

He added that he looks forward to working with the people of Israel to do "even more to bring together the United Statesand Israel in every field, from culture to education, life sciences, high technology, commerce, trade, and of course military and strategic cooperation and so many other things."

Friedman later met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who congratulated him upon his arrival to "Jerusalem, our eternal capital."

He also congratulated Friedman for visiting the Western Wall on Monday, saying "it was a strong gesture of solidarity."

Israel seized the Western Wall in the 1967 war together with the rest of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem shortly after the war, in a move never recognized internationally.

The Western Wall, the most sacred site for Jews, resides along the foot of the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims.

Friedman, a Jewish-American lawyer, voiced his reservations regarding the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in a sharp deviation from the U.S.' long-held stance.

According to Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper, Friedman has been president of the American Friends of Beit El Institutions, a group aiming to raise funds for the Beit El settlement's seminary along with other settlement activities.

The group raises about 2 million U.S. dollars annually, reported the daily.

According to Galey Israel radio station, Trump donated 10,000 dollars to the group.

[ Editor: meng ]


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