Another Biden Blunder in Pick for Israel Envoy
Thomas Nides, recently appointed as the United States’ ambassador to Israel, seems conspicuously unqualified for the position — unless misguided criticism of Israel is a Biden Administration requirement.
Following several years in politics — as former Vice President Walter Mondale’s intern and assistant to House Majority Whip Tony Coelho and Speaker Tom Foley — Nides’ interest turned to finance. He worked at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse before President Barack Obama selected him as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.
With no evident qualifications for the position of Ambassador — other than his self-described political identity on the “center-left” (although “center,” Nides has explained, was inserted “to make myself feel better”) — President Joe Biden appointed him Ambassador to Israel. His public statements since leave little doubt about his discomfort with the Jewish State.
Soon after his arrival, Nides announced that he would not visit settlements lest it be offensive — to whom, he did not specify. “The idea of settlement growth,” he revealed, “infuriates me when they do things that just infuriate the situation both in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
Overflowing with sound and fury, Nides insisted that “We can’t do stupid things that impede us for a two-state solution. We can’t have the Israelis doing settlement growth in east Jerusalem or the West Bank.” The idea that Jews living anywhere in Jerusalem are “settlers” is, of course, absurd. Nides appropriately acknowledged: “This is not like I thought this through,” adding that going to settlements is not “the right thing to do.” After all, why risk learning something about Jews living in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people?
As if in self-exoneration, Nides proudly revealed that he had visited the Western Wall “30 times” since arriving in Israel. But he has refused to visit the underground tunnel that follows the Wall deep into the Muslim Quarter, providing indisputable evidence of the expansive span of the ancient Jewish Temple Mount. Why not visit? Because, he explained, he did not want to “aggravate” people – meaning Muslims, not Jews.
Nides absurdly claims that his “north star” is strengthening Israel. “However to do that,” he imagines, “we must have a two-state solution.” Anything else “is not good for the Palestinians, it’s certainly not good for Israel, it’s not good for the Jews, it’s not good for anyone.” Especially for Nides.
Nides ignores the reality that there already is a Palestinian State — in Palestine. Its name is Jordan. Following World War I, British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill removed the territory east of the Jordan River, included in the British Mandate for “Palestine,” and gifted it to Hashemite leader Emir Abdullah. It eventually became the Kingdom of Jordan. Palestinians now comprise a majority of its population. Demographically and geographically, Jordan is “Palestine.” A second Palestinian state would be superfluous.
Nides also suggests that Israel should share Jerusalem with Palestinians. He seems oblivious to the reality that there already is a flourishing Muslim Quarter in the Old City. Its centerpiece is the Temple Mount where the ancient Jewish Temples were located before the Muslim conquest in the 7th century. And the current Arab sector in East Jerusalem is inhabited by more than 300,000 Palestinians. If “share” has any meaning, it already exists.
Any lingering doubt as to Nides’ political preferences was evident when he recently told an interviewer: “Your agenda is where my heart is.” He was referring to Peace Now, the far-left Israeli organization that favors a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders. That would reincarnate Jordan’s West Bank — originally known as Biblical Judea and Samaria — and divide Jerusalem into two capitals for two states.
The comforting reassurance that can be drawn from Ambassador Nides’ absurd fantasies is that there is as much likelihood of their implementation as there is that Israel would embrace its own self-destruction. Even President Biden might realize that.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of twelve books, including “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016,” selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a Best Book for 2019