By Morton A. Klein, ZOA February 19, 2017
It’s important to examine the harmful records and anti-Israel actions of the five leftwing, hostile-to-Israel, pro-Iran deal former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel who signed a coordinated letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unfairly and falsely maligning Ambassador-nominee David Friedman. The five signatories – Thomas Pickering, Daniel Kurtzer, Edward Walker, Jr., James Cunningham, and William Harrop – damaged U.S.-Israel relations and exacerbated the situation in the Middle East. At least several of them have financial or other ties to hostile-to-Israel groups.
Revealingly, the very same five former ambassadors signed a letter in July 2015 promoting the Iran deal (which provided Iran with a path to a nuclear bomb and $150 billion to fund its terrorist operations throughout the world). (“Former US Ambassadors to Israel Back Iran Deal,” by Deb Riechmann, Times of Israel, July 27, 2015.)
Thomas Pickering (Ambassador 1985-1988) has a long record of pro-Iranian regime, pro-Palestinian-Arab, friendly to Hamas, and problematic anti-Israel activism.
Pickering is a member of the American Iranian Council (AIC) board of directors. AIC promoted the dangerous Iran deal; now insists that the U.S. must “fully implement” the Iran deal (while ignoring Iran’s violations); opposes U.S. sanctions for Iran’s violations of UN Security Council Resolution 2331; and opposes designating as terrorist organizations the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corp and Muslim Brotherhood – despite the fact that both groups support terror throughout the world.
In Pickering’s bombshell secret December 18, 2011 email to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Pickering recommended undermining Israel by secretly employing NGOs (including Peace Now) and Palestinian-Arab women to foment and carry out massive demonstrations “against all aspects of the occupation” (meaning against Israel) including against “roadblocks, land confiscations, new settlement activity, [and] around military government installations,” in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Area C (the portion of Judea and Samaria administered by Israel) and Palestinian-Arab-controlled areas – to exert “continuing pressure” on Israel’s leaders to give in to Palestinian-Arab demands. Shockingly, Pickering also mentioned potential advantages of a Middle East war (apparently an Arab or Iranian war against Israel), but then opined that war was much too dangerous “with all that is happening there – despite the fact that it might be a game changer.” (See Pickering’s email; and “JPost – Obama’s Disgraceful Covert War Against Israel,” by Caroline Glick, Jan. 18, 2016; and “Ex-Ambassador Pitched Clinton Secret Plan to Spark Palestinian Protests,” by Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon & Fox News, Jan. 11, 2016.)
Pickering’s April 8, 2014 Op-ed in Politico, co-authored with the notoriously anti-Israel Zbigniew Brzezinski (entitled “Stand Firm, John Kerry”), also revealed Pickering’s one-sided, leftwing anti-Israel views. Pickering justified violence against Jews by falsely calling Israel’s presence in the lawfully designated Jewish homelands in Judea/Samaria “illegal land grabs . . . that will trigger renewed violence.” Pickering’s Op-ed also falsely claimed that Israel already possesses “78% of Palestine.” (In fact, Israel has only 22% of the British “Mandate for Palestine” – despite the fact that all of the mandate was lawfully designated for the Jewish homeland.) Pickering also condemned Netanyahu’s peace overtures as “morally unacceptable”; insisted that Israel should have no presence in the Jordan Valley (an area that is in fact vital for Israel’s security); expressed support for the pre-1967 lines (which would be suicidal for Israel); falsely portrayed the Palestinian-Arabs as having made significant concessions; and urged the Obama administration to be tougher on Israel.
And in July 2009, Pickering secretly met with senior leaders of designated terrorist organization Hamas to discuss “easing the Israeli siege of Gaza” – a euphemism for ending Israel’s lawful weapons blockade of Gaza to prevent Hamas from importing more missiles to fire at Israeli Jewish kindergartens. (There is no Israeli “siege.”) Pickering engaged Hamas without permission from the U.S. administration. (“Former U.S. Officials Talk With Hamas,” Politico, Apr. 2, 2010.)
Daniel Kurtzer (Ambassador 2001-2005) has a long record of hostility to Israel. His statements, policies and actions have provoked criticism from Israeli and American Jewish leaders, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir; the Labor Party’s former Israeli negotiator and ambassador Itamar Rabinovitch; former AIPAC Executive Director Morris Amitay; and leading Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot. (See “ZOA: Sen. Obama Should Rescind Appointment of Daniel Kurtzer As Middle East Adviser,” Apr. 16, 2008.)
Israel National News explained: “Kurtzer’s bias goes all the way back to his graduate school days. In his Ph.D. dissertation (Columbia University, 1976), Kurtzer said Israel’s counter-terror actions were the “catalysts to interstate violence,” and blamed Israel for “the radicalization of the Palestinians to violence” (p.253). Throughout the dissertation, Kurtzer referred to Palestinian Arab terrorists as “guerrillas,” not as terrorists–even though he was discussing the groups that carried out such horrific massacres as the Lod Airport massacre of Puerto Rican tourists and the slaughter of Israeli athletes (including an American) at the Munich Olympics.” (“Should Daniel Kurtzer Be America´s Next Ambassador to Israel?, Israel Nat’l News, July 24, 2001.) (The article concluded after reviewing Kurtzer’s lifelong hostile-to-Israel activities: “Daniel Kurtzer represents the old, tired, and failed policy of fruitlessly trying to appease Yasir Arafat and his terrorist dictatorship.”)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir recalled that: “Kurtzer frequently pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions to the Arabs; he constantly blamed Israel for the absence of Mideast peace, and paid little or no attention to the fact that the Palestinians were carrying out terrorist attacks and openly calling for the destruction of Israel.” (Id.)
Kurtzer hasn’t changed, and apparently still believes that the U.S. should force a deal that would endanger Israel’s existence down Israel’s throat. During an Al Jazeera special television program marking the 20th Anniversary of the failed Oslo Accords in 2013, after he was asked what could be done to place more “serious pressure” on Israel, Kurtzer responded: “I have made the argument publically that the United States should now lay out very strong parameters that define quite narrowly the issues still to be negotiated. . . And then expect the parties not taking no for an answer.” (“Transcript: The Peace Process,” Al Jazeera, Aug. 26, 2013.)
This past December (2016), after the Obama administration engineered and assured the passage of the extraordinarily anti-Israel UNSC Resolution 2334, instead of condemning the terrible UNSC Resolution, Kurtzer condemned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reaction as “nasty,” “unprecedented,” and “not proper and unacceptable.” (Netanyahu had merely disclosed that Israel had unequivocal proof that the Obama administration had orchestrated the anti-Israel resolution.) (“Former US ambassador to Israel Criticizes Netanyahu’s ‘Nasty’ UN Reaction,” AP, DW, Dec. 26, 2016.)
It is remarkably hypocritical that after Kurtzer accused Israel’s Prime Minister of being “nasty,” Kurtzner attacked Ambassador-nominee David Friedman as “not diplomatic.” Kurtzer is obviously not a judge of what is or isn’t diplomatic.
Moreover, Kurtzer has a habit of accusing those who disagree with his extreme anti-Israel views of being “not diplomatic.” In mid-2015, Kurtzer leveled such charges against Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. Kurtzer stated that Ambassador Oren, “appears to be following in the footsteps of his successor, Ron Dermer, who has prized Israeli politics above the diplomacy that he was appointed to practice.” (“Ex-U.S. Envoy Daniel Kurtzer Blasts Oren’s ‘Astounding’ Obama Criticism,” Haaretz, June 24, 2015.)
Kurtzer also blasted Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer earlier in 2015, in unpleasant graphic terms, after Congress invited Netanyahu to address Congress regarding Iran, saying: “He [Dermer]’s a political operative, he’s not really an ambassador. . . What he did was totally unacceptable from a standpoint of diplomacy. . . He [Dermer] has soiled his pad; who’s he going to work with?” (“Administration Official Criticizes Israeli Ambassador Over Netanyahu Visit,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, NY Times, Jan. 28, 2015.)
And speaking of diplomacy, in 2014, Kurtzer wrote that it “would demean American diplomacy” to release Jonathan Pollard. Kurtzer did not care that Pollard was in extremely ill health after being incarcerated under brutal conditions in U.S. prison for 29 years – decades longer than any similarly situated spy. Ironically, in the very same article, Kurtzer demanded that Israel must live up to commitments to release imprisoned Palestinian-Arab terrorists who had been convicted of murdering innocent Israeli civilians (a far worse crime than what Pollard had done). (“Releasing Pollard: Don’t Do It, Mr. Secretary, by Daniel Kurtzer, The American Interest, Apr. 1, 2014.)
Sadly, Kurtzer’s “diplomacy” has consisted of closing his eyes to or excusing Palestinian Arab terrorism, and pushing for dangerous Palestinian-Arab “rights.” During Kurtzer’s tenure at the State Department in 1988, a time when the PLO was engaged in constant terrorism against Israel, Kurtzer kept (falsely) insisting “that the PLO under Yasir Arafat was moving in a moderate direction.” Kurtzer became “a key figure in the process of formulating” the U.S. decision to recognize the PLO in December 1988. Israel National News noted that “Kurtzer’s claim of PLO “moderation” proved to be completely mistaken, because the PLO continued its terrorism and in early 1990, the U.S. broke off its dealings with Arafat.” (See “Should Daniel Kurtzer Be America´s Next Ambassador to Israel?, Israel Nat’l News, July 24, 2001, quoting “Washington Talk: State Department; Wordsmiths of the Mideast Move, by Robert Pear, NY Times, Jan. 13, 1989.)
Morris Amitay, former executive director of AIPAC, said: “Kurtzer has a track record of . . . pushing for Palestinian rights. . . . He will use his Jewishness as a protective cover for his anti-Israel views.” (“Likely Nomination of Orthodox Jew As U.S. Ambassador Splits U.S. Jews,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 29, 2001.)
Kurtzer was also the principal author of one of the most significant anti-Israel statements of U.S. policy in the Middle East, a speech by Secretary of State George Shultz to a conference at the Wye Plantation in Maryland in 1988, in which he said that “The legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including political rights, must be recognized and addressed.”
Kurtzer’s book “Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East” (co-authored with Scott Lasensky), praised former Secretary of State James Baker, who applied ruthless pressure on Israel and held Israel responsible for obstacles to peace. Kurtzer and Lasensky also claimed that America falsely labeled Arafat and the Palestinian-Arab leadership as responsible for the collapse of the Oslo process – a claim contradicted by virtually all American officials engaged in the 2000 Camp David and Taba negotiations, including President Clinton and Middle East envoy Dennis Ross.
In addition, in their book, Kurtzer and Lasensky condemned Bush 43 for being too “deferential” to Israel. Kurtzer and Lasensky stated that Presdient Bush: “proved overly deferential to the stated political problems of the Israeli government while tending to turn a blind eye towards domestic constraints on the Arab side. (page 34). (See “Obama’s New Foreign Policy Advisor Daniel Kurtzer,” by Ed Lasky, American Thinker, Apr. 10, 2008.)
In yet another display of Kurtzer’s own lack of diplomacy, Kurtzer publicly interfered with, falsely insulted and criticized Israel’s internal budgetary policy. Kurtzer stated, “Instead of taking care of the disabled and or economic development, Israel is investing in Jewish settlements, which should be dismantled.” This led a member of Israel’s Knesset (parliament), Zwi Hendel, to denounce Kurtzer on the Knesset floor. MK Hendel stated: “No Israeli diplomat would be allowed to act as he [Kurtzer] does. . . I have the right to criticize this little Jew who is interfering in our internal affairs.” (“Embassy Row: Denouncing Kurtzer,” Washington Times, January 9, 2002.)
Kurtzer also rebuked Israeli negotiators for being insufficiently concessionary: The Israeli Labor government’s then-ambassador to the U.S., Itamar Rabinovitch, described a “stormy dispute” between Kurtzer and the head of Israel´s negotiating team, in which “Kurtzer thought that Israel was not going far enough with the Palestinians. There were sharp exchanges between them [and Kurtzer] rebuked” the Israeli negotiators. (“ZOA: Sen. Obama Should Rescind Appointment of Daniel Kurtzer As Middle East Adviser,” Apr. 16, 2008, quoting Haaretz, April 6, 2001.)
Kurtzer also had a “vocal conflict” with an Israeli government official in Philadelphia in the summer of 1990, after Kurtzer “attacked the Israeli government for refusing to include the PLO in the peace process [and] said that this constituted the main obstacle to peace.” (Id.)
Kurtzer also criticized Israeli strikes at Palestinian terrorists. In August 2001, Kurtzer publicly criticized Israel for striking at Abu Ali Mustafa, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which over the years has murdered at least 14 American citizens and numerous Israelis. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement on August 28, 2001 saying it was “surprised and dismayed” that Kurtzer “felt compelled to raise the issue with Prime Minister Sharon,” yet “we did not hear of any similar actions when American citizens were the victims of terror attacks over the past few months.” Indeed, just hours after Kurtzer‘s statement, an American Jew, Ben Dansker, was shot and wounded by Arafat´s terrorists near the town of Rogalit – yet Kurtzer made no statement about the attack. (Id.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has said more than once that with Jews like Kurtzer, it is impossible to build a healthy relationship between Israel and the United States.” (Id.)
“Kurtzer‘s poor relations with Jerusalem’s political bureaus reached a new climax” in 1990, when he authored a speech by James Baker strongly criticizing Israel, which was delivered at an AIPAC conference, “causing a commotion among the conference participants . . . A Jewish community leader told Kurtzer [shortly afterwards], ‘Your children will bear the consequences of the Israeli policy you are encouraging.’” (Id.)
Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot editorialized on Kurtzer’s malign influence: “Possibly more than any other U.S. State Department official, Kurtzer has been instrumental in promoting the goals of the Palestinians and in raising their afflictions to the center of the U.S. policymakers’ agenda.” (“ZOA: Sen. Obama Should Rescind Appointment of Daniel Kurtzer As Middle East Adviser,” Apr. 16, 2008, quoting Yediot Ahronot, Aug. 9, 1991.)
Edward Walker, Jr. (Ambassador 1997 – Jan. 2000) won acclaim throughout the Arab world when he wrote an Op-ed in the Washington Post during the Second Intifada, condemning Israel for its targeted assassinations of Hamas terrorists plotting attacks on Israeli civilians. (Palestinian-Arab terrorists murdered close to 2,000 innocent Israelis and injured 10,000 innocent Israelis during the Second Intifada.) In Walker’s view, providing “due process” to terrorists ensconced in the midst of hostile territory was more important than stopping attacks on innocent Israeli and other civilians. Walker’s Op-ed also made an immoral “moral equivalence” between Israel’s defensive actions and murders carried out by hostile Arab regimes. (“No Exceptions for Israel,” by Edward Walker, Jr., Washington Post, Aug. 21, 2001.)
Impressed with Walker’s anti-Israel Op-ed, Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Youssuf’s editor-in-chief enthusiastically wrote: “together with us [Edward Walker] wages the cruel battle against the Israeli lobby and Israel’s claims and deceits.” (MEMRI Analysis, Nov. 22, 2001.)
Although Walker acknowledges that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, Walker has also defended and justified Hezbollah attacks on non-civilian Israelis. Walker told Egyptian paper Al-Mussawar that one of Hezbollah’s roles is as “a resistance movement legitimately fighting the Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon. All of Hezbollah’s attacks against Israeli forces are legitimate acts of resistance, not terrorism.” (Id.) Walker reiterated this view in another interview, saying: “The Lebanese government claims that Hezbollah are not terrorists because they were engaged in legitimate resistance against Israel, which was in occupation of southern Lebanon. In that specific case, I happen to agree with them. What Hezbollah did in south Lebanon was not terrorism; it was resistance, because it was directed solely at military targets.” Walker ignored the fact that Israel’s presence in southern Lebanon at that time was necessary to stop deadly Hezbollah attacks on innocent Israeli civilians living in northern Israel which had made normal life in northern Israel impossible. (Middle East Quarterly Interview, Spring 2002.)
Walker also served as president of the pro-Arab, unfriendly-to-Israel Middle East Institute (MEI). MEI’s website blog defended Hezbollah for its 2015 raid and murder of two Israeli soldiers and a UN peacekeeper; approvingly wrote about anti-Israel UNSC Resolution 2334 and former Secretary Kerry’s speech condemning Israel; complained that during the 2014 Gaza war many Arab regimes were “silent” (instead of rushing to help Hamas), that the PA was not simultaneously rioting in the “West Bank” (to make life difficult for Israel on two fronts); and, MEI promotes J Street conferences. Walker also served in posts in Arab nations throughout the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, the UAE, Egypt and Tunisia).
As with the rest of this gang of five, Walker also promoted the horrible Iran deal.
James Cunningham (Ambassador from 2008-2011) also has a pro-Iran, pro-Palestinian-Arab, anti-Israel record. As noted above, Cunningham promoted the catastrophic Iran deal.
During his previous tenure as Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations, Cunningham condemned a 2004 Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operation to stop attacks emanating from Gaza. On behalf of the U.S., Cunningham abstained on UN Security Council Resolution 1544 (May 19, 2004), which viciously and unfairly condemned Israel’s defensive actions. Cunningham’s abstention was tantamount to a “yes” vote, and enabled this anti-Israel resolution’s passage. After the vote, Cunningham criticized Israel, saying that the IDF operation “worsened the humanitarian situation and resulted in confrontation between Israeli forces and Palestinians.” Cunningham also pushed for Israel to withdraw from Gaza, stating that these events were a “reminder of the wisdom of Israel disengaging from Gaza and having its security presence replaced by reformed Palestinian security forces.” (“U.N. Security Council Critical of Israeli Operations in Gaza,” by Judy Aita, Washington File United Nations Correspondent, Washington File, May 20, 2004.) Israel did withdraw from Gaza the following year (2005) – which resulted in Hamas lobbing 19,000 rockets at innocent Israelis over the next decade. So much for Cunningham’s “wisdom.”
Interestingly, Cunningham’s lack of expertise was noted when Cunningham became the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. (See “New US Envoy To Israel Announced,” by Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2008: “One official noted that Cunningham, although he did deal with Middle East issues at the UN, is not considered a Middle East expert.”)
William Harrop (Ambassador 1992 – May 1993) revealed his anti-Israel and leftwing prejudices during a recent interview, in which Harrop proclaimed that Israeli “occupation” is the “principal problem.” Harrop ignored that the real problem is Palestinian-Arabs’ unrelenting goal of destroying Israel. (“An Interview With William C. Harrop,” by Maria Livingston, Foreign Service Journal, Sept. 2015.)
Interestingly, during the same interview, Harrop admitted that he had no experience in the Middle East prior to what he called his “surprising appointment” as U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Harrop further admitted: “I’m not sure I did all that well there, to be honest.” After admitting to his own lack of qualifications and the poor job he did as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, it is the height of audacity for Harrop to now try to pass judgment on an Ambassador-nominee with far more knowledge of Middle East issues than Harrop had.
Harrop also noted during his Foreign Service Journal interview that the U.S. Ambassador post to Israel is perhaps less important than ambassadorships to other countries, because “much of the work is done in personal telephone calls between the U.S. president or the Secretary of State and the prime minister, so you’re often paddling about trying to catch up on what’s happening instead of being the one who makes things happen.”
In another interview on August 24, 1993, for The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Harrop repeatedly referred to Likud as “hard right”; complained that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tried to “justify his ‘settlement policy’”; further condemned Likud as “disingenuous about the peace process” and “not serious about negotiations . . . which I think in retrospect was reprehensible”; and criticized the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations” as an entity that was set up to “rationalize” the “world” of Jewish groups in the U.S.
During the same interview, Harrop also excused former Secretary of State James Baker’s “F–k the Jews” remark as merely “the kind of thing that politicians say privately.” And yet now, Harrop hypocritically condemns Ambassador-nominee David Friedman for far less egregious remarks said as a private citizen.
And as mentioned above, Harrop joined in promoting the dangerous Iran deal in 2015.
Accordingly, the letter criticizing Ambassador-nominee Friedman, signed by these five biased former ambassadors, deserves no credence. In fact, the letter deserves our repudiation and disgust.