To understand why Donald Trump chose David Friedman to be his ambassador to Israel, it’s worth reading a story written by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Uriel Heilman this April. With the New York Republican primary only days away, a group of Orthodox Jewish activists came to meet Trump at his office. According to Heilman, “One of the first things Trump did when he sat down in the sunny corner conference room at Trump Tower and saw that almost all the 20 or so faces around the room were Orthodox Jews was summon some Orthodox Jews of his own.” Turning to his then campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, Trump said, “Maybe I can get Jason Greenblatt down here.” Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew, is Trump’s chief legal officer. “And you know who else?” Trump added, “David Cohen.” Later, “Trump also talked about his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner.”
When Greenblatt arrived, Trump deferred several of the questions to him. He also told the group that his chief Israel advisors would be Greenblatt and David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who has worked for Trump since at least 2001.
Neither Greenblatt nor Friedman is conventionally qualified to advise Trump about Israel. Neither has worked on Middle East policy. Neither has any diplomatic experience. Both have spent time in Israel, and feel strongly about the country. But that’s true of many American Jews, especially in the Orthodox community. As Lisa Spies, who did Jewish outreach for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign told Politico, “It’s almost degrading to say, just because you’re Jewish, you know this. This is degrading to people who actually do this professionally.”