Former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has emerged as one of the leading Jewish apologists for President Barack Obama in his confrontation with the Israeli government.
With the American public now beginning to express resentment of the anti-Israeli tilt adopted by the Obama administration, Indyk has been intensifying his attacks on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, blaming him for the crisis and slandering him as an instrument of extremist nationalist elements.
Indyk has had a remarkably successful academic and political career. Educated in Australia, he was employed by the Australian counterpart of AIPAC. In the US, he subsequently assumed a research role in AIPAC, following which he was appointed executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and taught Middle East studies in various universities.
He served as a special assistant to president Bill Clinton, and was a member of secretary of state Warren Christopher’s Middle East peace team. After adopting US citizenship, he became the first foreign-born and first Jewish US ambassador to Israel, serving two terms. Currently he is director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institute. Indyk is also an enthusiastic supporter of the New Israel Fund, and recently vigorously defended the NIF in Australia after the invitation to NIF president Naomi Chazan was revoked following the uproar concerning NIF grants to organizations collaborating in the compilation of the despicable Goldstone Report.
SO HOW are we to understand Indyk’s recent outbursts? Jewish supporters of Obama’s harsh and one-sided offensive against the current government fall into two broad categories.
There are those like J Street who are either genuinely anti-Israel or convinced they know better than Israelis what is best for Israel and are willing to lobby their government to force the Jewish state to continue making unilateral concessions. Needless to say, according to the most recent poll, more than 90 percent of Israelis are opposed to Obama imposing a solution.
The second category are the acolytes of Obama seeking to ingratiate themselves with the administration by acting as its apologists.
Indyk understands both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the nature of Israeli domestic policies, and on the basis of his ferocious criticisms of the government, one is tempted to conclude that as a member of the administration, he is not merely promoting a partisan agenda, but deliberately distorting reality.
His most recent defense of Obama’s offensive was an International Herald Tribune op-ed titled “When Your Best Friend Gets Angry.”
He accuses Netanyahu of being responsible for the current crisis. Yet he is aware that he has skillfully navigated his government to a centrist position which the vast majority of Israelis support. Indyk must appreciate that by appeasing Obama and initiating a settlement freeze, Netanyahu made a concession that none of his “dovish” political predecessors would ever have contemplated. This and other unilateral concessions to the Palestinians were neither reciprocated nor even acknowledged.
Indyk’s extreme views should perhaps be viewed in the context of his colleague Dennis Ross being reportedly accused of having dual loyalties for suggesting that the administration was making demands that could not be implemented within the democratic constraints of the Israeli system. Indyk need not be concerned about facing any such suspicions, and also implicitly distanced himself from Aaron David Miller, a long-term State Department critic of Israeli government policies, who recently also expressed disillusion with the path adopted by the Obama administration.
INDYK EVEN went to the length of reiterating that Israeli intransigence was contributing to US military casualties – a manifestly untrue accusation (as Indyk himself must know) – repudiated by Gen. David Petraeus, who emphasized the positive aspects of Israel as a strategic ally. Indyk effectively claimed that American soldiers were dying because Israelis are endangering “a vital national security interest for the United States,” presumably by building apartments in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
In subsequent more explicit comments, Indyk said 200,000 US troops are fighting terrorism and Obama is obliged to write between 30 and 40 condolence letters a month – far more than the Israeli prime minister. Such chilling remarks from a mainstream American Jewish public figure have the capacity of inflicting enormous damage on Israel and the Jewish community.
Indyk also repeats the absurdity that by making more unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, Israel will enable the US to resolve the Iranian nuclear threat, again linking the construction freeze in Jerusalem with Obama’s ability to deal with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This balderdash is compounded when he also urges Israel to cede the Golan to Syria – ignoring the latter’s alliance with Iran and its increasing aggressiveness toward Israel.
To top off this vicious barrage, Indyk cynically invokes the memory of Yitzhak Rabin, whom he refers to as “Israel’s greatest strategic thinker.” Yet he would be aware that Rabin exploded when Diaspora Jews sought to encourage US administrations to exert pressure on the elected Israeli government.
He would also know that Rabin would never have displayed Netayahu’s restraint had an American president treated his country like a vassal, as Obama did to his erstwhile ally.
Indyk’s recent intensified attacks on the government could be in response to the extraordinary groundswell of protest against Obama’s hostility toward Israel.
AMONG JEWS, ADL’s Abe Foxman is no longer a lone voice protesting the Obama policies. World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder, Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democratic Obama supporter Alan Dershowitz, former New York mayor Ed Koch and many other mainstream Jewish leaders are now raising their voices in protest. There is a groundswell of anger among Jewish Democrats who feel that Obama reneged on his pre-electoral commitments. The most recent poll (Quinnipiac University) shows that 67% of American Jews (78% of whom voted for Obama) disapprove of his policies, while only 28% approve; 73% believe that Palestinians should be obliged to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition to further negotiations.
This extends to the wider American public, the majority of whom also disapprove of Obama’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, with 66% saying he should be a strong supporter of Israel and only 19% opposed. Twice as many Americans support Netanyahu as those opposing him.
This was reflected in resolutions passed by the House and the Senate with overwhelming majorities urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to bring an end to the confrontation.
Of late, the message seems to have penetrated. The more recent statements from both Obama and Clinton not only reiterate the “unshakeable relationship” between Israel and the US, but are trying to promote the appearance that relations are on the mend.
Most Israelis and Americans would certainly welcome this. Thus, perhaps Indyk’s op-ed was a last hurrah from those Jews pressing Obama to intensify pressure. Indyk’s warning to Israelis to distance themselves from the policies of their government “or there will be serious consequences” should therefore be treated with the contempt it deserves.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post