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David Friedma at the 2019 AIPAC conference. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman said the country is gaining strength in part because "Israel is on the side of God," the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The Trump administration has ratcheted up policy and rhetoric in support of Israel by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and eliminating the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. Friedman has played a major role in creating Trump's promised proposal regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The other side: Daniel C. Kurtzer, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under former President George W. Bush, called this "an extremely inappropriate comment." Palestine Liberation Organization leaders also reacted harshly to the statement.

The backdrop: Many Palestinians have boycotted the Trump administration since December 2017 over the president's Jerusalem embassy announcement, and contact between Trump and the Palestinians has been almost completely severed.

Go deeper: U.S. ambassador to Israel says Trump's peace plan is months away

Go deeper

10 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.