Thomas Nides: Stumble-Bum In The Promised Land

Thomas Nides is the American Ambassador to Israel. He has not exactly endeared himself to the Israelis in the little more than two years he’s been in their country, for he has a supercilious habit of telling them what he, the grand panjandrum and viceroy from Washington, thinks they should do. More on this stumble-bumbling Mr. Buttinsky can be found in this article from March that retains its relevance: “A Bumbling Ambassador in Israel,” by Jerold Auerbach, Algemeiner, March 3, 2023:

In a striking display of arrogance – and ignorance – American Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides recently told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu what he must do, and not do, to resolve the current political crisis over judicial reform. Furthermore, Netanyahu must accept American policy recommendations regarding other aspects of Israeli governance.

Although Nides insisted that the United States would not dictate changes he made it clear that the Biden Administration prefers the Israeli government to become its deferential clone. Of primary importance is the High Court of Justice (Israel’s Supreme Court). Netanyahu’s intention to restrict its power infuriated Nides. “We’re telling the prime minister – as I tell my kids – ‘pump the brakes, slow down, try to get a consensus, bring the parties together.’” To Nides, Netanyahu is merely another “kid,” to be told what must be done to satisfy American wishes.

By what right does Nides presume to lecture Netanyahu on his plan for judicial reform? The Prime Minister’s plan may be terrible, or long overdue, but that’s not the point. It’s not for the American ambassador to lecture or hector the democratically-elected government of Israel. Would the American government tolerate any foreign power or organization, such as the UN, telling it what domestic policies it must embrace?

Then there is the issue of Israeli settlements in Biblical Judea and Samaria – a source of “frustration” for the Biden administration. Nides, oblivious to their place in Jewish history, cannot restrain himself from bloviating about the evils of these Jewish communities, “a vexing issue for our country.” There is no indication that he has ever visited a settlement.

Nides, in fact, has proudly announced that he will “never” visit a settlement. He has no idea that the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the Mandate for Palestine included all of Judea and Samaria (renamed “the West Bank” by Jordan in 1950), nor is he aware that Article 6 of that Mandate calls for “facilitating Jewish immigration” and the “close settlement by Jews on the land.” What land? Nides clearly has no idea. So let’s fill him in. All of the land from Al-Hamma, Tiberias in the north to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. In other words, all the land “from the river to the sea.” Nides should read, study, and finally, grasp the significance of, the Mandate for Palestine, as well as examine the Mandate maps. Such study should prove enlightening.

Another irritating issue for Nides concerns the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the most ancient Jewish holy site after the Machpelah burial site in Hebron of the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs. He condemned the recent visit – in March — of Itamar Ben Gvir, Minister of National Security, to the Mount. This, for Nides, was “unacceptable.” It was nothing but a “provocative” act, “the kind of nonsense that lights things on fire.” But it was Nides who seemed to be burning with fury.

Why did Nides claim that Ben Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount was “unacceptable” and “provocative”? He behaved no differently than the tens of thousands of Jews who since June 1967 have visited the Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism. Ben Gvir came accompanied only by a single rabbi and his security detail. He made no statements upon arrival, or at any time during his visit. He walked around the perimeter of the Al-Aqsa Compound, staying clear of the mosque itself. He did not pray aloud. He did not pray silently. His entire visit lasted only 13 minutes. What was it that Ben Gvir did that was “unacceptable” and “provocative”? Nides should be asked to explain his damnable choice of words.

Nides proudly claims spending “60% of my time trying to help the Palestinian people” – revealing that his role as Ambassador to Israel is undeserving of his attention. He proudly cites the Biden administration’s commitment to increasing financial aid to UNRWA, the United Nations organization charged with helping Palestinian refugees of the 1947-48 Arab war that was fought to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state. By now, however, UNRWA has become a scam. Nides is oblivious to the reality that there are as many UNRWA employees (approximately 30,000) as there are genuine Palestinian refugees still living.

Apparently we are to be impressed by Nides’ claim to spend 60% of his time “trying to help the Palestinian people.” And here we were thinking that his remit was to serve as the American ambassador to Israel, and not to those who are dedicated to undermining the Jewish state.

Nides also boasts of the increase in American aid to UNRWA. But UNRWA is a scandalous organization. Its schoolbooks are full of antisemitic poison that the agency keeps promising to get rid of, but has never yet done so. UNRWA is also corrupt, with money and sex scandals at the very top. The most recent major scandal, in 2019, led to the forced resignation of its Director-General, Pierre Krahenbuhl, as well as of his mistress Maria Mohammedi, whom he had named as his “assistant” so that they could travel around the world together, flying first class and staying in five-star hotels, ostensibly on UNRWA business. The Biden administration gives more aid to UNRWA in order to get around the Taylor Force Act. That act prohibits any American aid from going to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues with its “Pay-For-Slay” program. Since Mahmoud Abbas has no intention of giving up that program, that provides generous subsidies to imprisoned terrorists and to the families of terrorists who died while attacking Israelis, the Bidenites first hit upon the policy of providing aid to the Palestinians through UNRWA, which is not covered by the Taylor Force Act. Nides thoroughly approves of this evasion of Taylor Force. But now the Bidenites have decided even that evasion isn’t necessary; they are going for broke, providing aid directly to the P.A. and hoping that Congress won’t condemn its violation of Taylor Force.

Given Nides’ evident determination to inject himself into Israeli policy decisions it is hardly surprising that he would be sharply rebuked by Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli. “I say to the American ambassador,” Chikli advised, “slam the breaks on yourself and mind your own business.” It is unlikely that Nides will comply with Chikli’s recommendation.

Nides’ background helped to frame his current stance on Israel. After working for liberal American politicians Walter Mondale and Joe Lieberman among others, he became Managing Director of Morgan Stanley. From there he went to Credit Suisse before becoming Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources in the Obama administration. His talents in the financial world were evident. But Wall Street buccaneering does not translate into expertise about the Middle East, least of all about Israel….

Nides, who for much of his adult life has been an investment banker, with stints at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, may know all about what the Fed is doing about interest rates, and why the Hang Seng Index is feeling poorly, and no doubt he’s a dab hand at discussing volatility and risk in the bond market, but what his current job, as the American Ambassador to Israel, requires is not any of that, but a very different kind of knowledge. Nides needs to know the history of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel over the last 3500 years, and how the Jews in their land fared under many different conquerors, and how, in exile, they continued to long for “Zion and Jerusalem.” He needs to understand the Treaty of San Remo, the Mandate for Palestine (with special attention to Article 6), Article 80 of the U.N. Charter, and UN Security Council Resolution 242, as glossed by its chief author, British ambassador to the U.N. Lord Caradon.

Nides has yet to comprehend that Israelis are determined to define and defend their ancient homeland and modern nation” – their Altneuland — “despite his discomfort, and without his intrusion. As for Netanyahu’s plans and decisions, Nides should watch and listen before he indulges in more rants. He might even realize, at the last minute of his tenure,  that he was appointed to be the Ambassador to Israel, not its critic-in-chief.” Indeed.<

June 26, 2023 | 2 Comments »

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  1. Nides has been a perfect representative of the overbearing, undiplomatic, authoritarian, and Iranian allied govt for which he represents. The lack of any restraint or proper diplomatic treatment by Nides is not an error, but quite representative of how hostile the US govt has become to the interest and govt of Israel.

  2. I thought a government had the right not to approve a foreign ambassador. This should have been dealt with long ago.