A Diplomat Who Failed at Peace Attacks America’s New Israel Ambassador
A predictable pattern has emerged over the last several decades of U.S. Middle East policy. The State Department will urge the president to pursue its formula for bringing about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The president and his secretary of state waste years in this endeavor, made quixotic, because of the failure to confront Palestinian irredentism.
Equally predictable, the diplomats behind these failures retire and use the media to pontificate on what their successors should do. Thanks to the media’s practiced interest in criticizing Israel, these failed former diplomats are given a platform to criticize every idea that conflicts with the ineffective ones they advocated when they had the power to implement them.
Former Emissaries Spouting Off
The latest former emissary to spout off is Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. I was proud of Kurtzer because he is an orthodox Jew who celebrated his adherence to his faith while serving as American’s top diplomat to the Jewish state. While I do not know him, I do know his son who is an accomplished and serious academic. But none of these impressive achievements should provide Kurtzer with a protective shield to permit him to rail against Israeli policy and anyone who advocates positions different from those he unsuccessfully endorsed.
The newspaper of record for Jews attacking other Jews and Israel seems to have become The New York Times. So it was not surprising to read an op-ed by Kurtzer in the Times complaining that Trump’s selection of David Friedman as United States ambassador to Israel is a serious mistake.
Kurtzer asserts that “Mr. Friedman would be representing not the American people but a small, extreme minority of Americans who have in mind the interests of a small, extreme minority in Israel.” He’s got it backwards as it is Kurtzer who, respectfully, represents the fringe of Jewish opinion here and in Israel.
Consider what Friedman has said that Kurtzer believes disqualifies him from the job: “Mr. Friedman has been publicly arguing that Israel has a right to build settlements and annex parts of the West Bank. He believes that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
Kurtzer disseminates Palestinian propaganda about the West Bank being occupied when he knows full well that these areas are disputed. Israel has as much right and, historically, politically, religiously and geographically, more right to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria than the Palestinians.
No one disputes that the West Bank was the Biblical cradle of early Jewish civilization and no one disputes that the land was unlawfully occupied by Jordan between the 1948 and the 1967 war. Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank on April 24, 1950 was recognized only by the United Kingdom, Iraq, and Pakistan. So what illegal occupation of the West Bank is Kurtzer referring to? Which legal entity did Israel illegally occupy it from?
Israel has a right to build settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinians agreed to it when they signed the Oslo accords. Whether doing so is in Israel’s best interests is for Israel’s government (elected three consecutive times) to decide, not Daniel Kurtzer, Peter Beinart, Thomas Friedman, CNN, the New York Times or the Washington Post.
Eugene Rostow, a former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, observed that UN Security Council Resolution 242, the backbone of all peace negotiations, gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution “allows Israel to administer the territories” it won in 1967 “until ‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ is achieved.”
Thus, Ambassador-designate Friedman is correct when he says Israel has a right to build settlements in the West Bank. In fact, the Palestinians agreed to it when they signed the Oslo accords. Whether doing so is in Israel’s best interests is for Israel’s government (elected three consecutive times) to decide rather than those uncomfortable with the decisions of Israeli democracy, such as Kurtzer, Peter Beinart, Thomas Friedman, CNN, the New York Times or the Washington Post.
The second part of that same sentence Kurtzer found objectionable referred to Israel’s right to annex parts of the West Bank. Again, a statement that is consistent with Israel’s claims to the land. Israel is under no obligation to maintain the status quo forever because the Palestinians refuse to coexist with a Jewish state.
After Israel annexed the Golan Heights (and no one is talking about concessions there any more), Professor Julius Stone of Hastings College of the Law wrote: “There is no rule of international law which requires a lawful military occupant, in this situation, to wait forever before [making] control and government of the territory permanent …. Many international lawyers have wondered, indeed, at the patience which led Israel to wait as long as she did.” Israel has been even more patient in holding off annexation of some or all of the West Bank.
Shatter the Fantasy
Friedman’s third outrageous statement was that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Kurtzer knows that the US Congress passed a law to this effect in 1995 — that is U.S. policy, not what the State Department advocates.
Congress made the mistake of providing the president a loophole to ignore the law and that is why the embassy remains in Tel Aviv. So Friedman not only has the law on his side but the foresight Palestinian apologists lack, namely, the understanding that recognizing Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel will end the Palestinian fantasy of one day controlling Jerusalem.
From there the Palestinian house of cards will collapse. Arab governments who have used innocent Palestinian refugees as pawns by which to demonize Israel will recognize they will never be migrating to Israel to demographically overrun the Jewish state and Palestine will never be liberated from the river to the sea.
Arabists Don’t Understand the Arabs
Kurtzer also criticized Friedman for referring to J Street as the equivalent of Jewish kapos who collaborated with the Nazis at concentration camps. I agree that this language was inappropriate. Nothing short of genocide should be compared to the Nazis. I know David Friedman and he is a man of sophistication, humility, warmth, and total decency. It may be that in the heat of the campaign he used language that was unacceptable but is in no way characteristic of the fine man he is.
The point he so indelicately made was consistent with the views of most Jews and Israelis who do not consider J Street pro-Israel or pro-peace. Rather, J Street reflects the belief of Arabists that Israelis don’t know what’s good for them and that their democratic process should be replaced by the judgment of State Department officials and Israel critics living thousands of miles away in London, Paris, and Oslo.
Many officials still in power will try to sabotage President-elect Trump’s Middle East policy. They seem frustrated that Friedman will carry out a foreign policy that treats Israel as an ally.
Many American presidents have believed that they can somehow persuade the Palestinians to live in peace with Israel. Each of their peace plans have failed. Francis Fukuyama, a former State Department official, has observed that Arabists “have been more systematically wrong than any other area of specialists in the diplomatic corps. This is because Arabists not only take on the cause of the Arabs, but also the Arabs’ tendency for self-delusion.”
In promoting the false narrative that America should somehow remain neutral between two parties of equal moral standing, Kurtzer represents these delusions as do many officials still in power who will try to sabotage President-elect Trump’s Middle East policy, starting with attacking his choice for ambassador to Israel. They seem frustrated that Friedman will carry out a foreign policy that treats Israel as an ally, as opposed to Obama’s favorite whipping post. The fact that Friedman is close to the president and is a solid friend of Israel will ensure that he has an important voice in ensuring that the Democratic state of Israel is not forced to make concessions to non-democratic terror entities bent on Israel’s destruction.