Mike Huckabee is headed back to the Holy Land.
The two-time White House hopeful, former Fox New Channel weekend host and former governor of Arkansas will be America’s next ambassador to Israel, a presidential transition official confirmed on Friday. He is scheduled to meet with President-Elect Donald Trump Friday at 2:00 p.m.
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist preacher and electric bass player, will become the tip of Trump’s spear as he seeks to shake up U.S. foreign relations in the Middle East, beginning with relocating America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
‘That’s going to happen,’ the transition official said. ‘Governor Huckabee is going to see it through.’
Despite congressional approval for moving the U.S. embassy, American leaders have historically tap-danced around the issue of where in Israel America’s diplomatic footprint should fall. No other nation has its embassy in Jerusalem.
Still, Israel’s Knesset and Supreme Court are located in West Jerusalem. And the nation captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 ‘Six-Day War,’ taking control of it from Jordan.
A 1980 Israeli law still in force declares that ‘Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.’
Arab nations near Israel oppose the idea of making Jerusalem a center of power for the Jewish state. Many of them deny Israel’s right to exist at all, and most see Jerusalem as a holy city for Muslims.
The Obama administration and others before it have insisted that the multiple religious claims on Israel should be decided as part of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, ‘the ultimate deal’ that Trump said during his campaign he would like to tackle.
Spokespersons for the transition did not respond to a request for confirmation for this story.
Huckabee arrived at Trump Tower around 1:00 on Friday. Asked by pool reporters why he was meeting with Trump, he joked: ‘I’m just here for the Starbucks.’
His appointment to the key diplomatic post will send shock waves through the Middle East.
In 2011 during a dedication ceremony at a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, Huckabee said Arabs’ attempts to prevent Jewish settlers from building there was comparable to racist housing discrimination in the United States.
Last year in August, as he was shoring up support for his ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign, Huckabee met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and controversially referred to the Palestinian-occupied territory of West Bank as part of Israel.
A political correspondent with the Jerusalem Post was the first to report that Trump was committed to choosing Huckabee for the job in Israel.
The gregarious and affable Huckabee has long been an unwavering Israel advocate, even parlaying his dozens of trips there into a part-time tourism business, ‘The Mike Huckabee Israel Experience.’
For $5,250, participants get a 10-day tour of the Holy Land from Huckabee himself, complete with commentary on historic sites, Christian worship services and moral lessons about the need for America to shore up its closest ally in the region.
‘During your Israel Experience trip, you’ll walk where Jesus walked, sit atop the Mount of Beatitudes, and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane,’ the program’s website promises.
‘You’ll see where He performed miracles, and you’ll stand in the empty Garden Tomb. You’ll experience the Sea of Galilee and be baptized in the Jordan River.
You’ll explore Old City Jerusalem, gaze out from Masada, and swim in the Dead Sea. The Bible will come alive for you as never before.’
The next scheduled journey is calendared for February 11-21 – after Trump becomes president.