Some people, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are on this list of influential Jews by virtue of the very office they hold. The prime minister of Israel, regardless of who holds that office, wields enormous power to impact the lives of Jews the world over. Others make the list not necessarily because of the power of their office, but because they have influence on the world’s most powerful people. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is in the latter category.
Friedman, 59, was largely unknown to the wider public until US presidential candidate Donald Trump plucked the highly successful bankruptcy lawyer from his Manhattan law office and named him, and real estate lawyer Jason Greenblatt, as his top campaign advisers on the US-Israel relationship.
Then Friedman became well known, real fast. His political adversaries made sure of that, highlighting his right-wing positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his support for the settlements, and his sharp disdain for left-wing organizations such as J Street. None of that mattered to Trump, who has known and worked with Friedman for more than 15 years, and who developed a great deal of respect for, and a close relationship with, the attorney, who represented him in various bankruptcy cases during that period. So, despite a hue and cry on the Left and among Democrats, it was no surprise that Trump nominated Friedman to be his ambassador to Israel. One of the issues that came up in Friedman’s contentious Senate nomination hearing – the 52-46 vote split almost completely along party lines – was his lack of diplomatic experience for a highly sensitive diplomatic post.But while Friedman may lack the diplomatic experience of some US ambassadors who came before, he does have a strong personal relationship with Trump – something that gives him a degree of influence with the president many of his predecessors never enjoyed.Friedman has a direct line to Trump, and when something seems important to him or he feels is “off” in the Israeli-US relationship, he can either pick up the phone to the Oval Office, or – as he has done already twice during his four months as ambassador – get on a plane and fly for a meeting with Trump, to tell the president how he sees the situation.That’s called influence; lots of it.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman greets his daughter who immigrated to Israel