A former Clinton administration official is blasting President Obama for his treatment of Israel over the past eight years and strongly encourages President-Elect Trump to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Lawrence J. Haas served as communications director for Vice President Al Gore and is now a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council . His book “Harry and Arthur” was named one of the top ten non-fiction books of 2016 by the Wall Street Journal.
In a recent column for U.S. News & World Report, Haas makes the case for moving the embassy. In a subsequent interview, Haas told us the move comes down to one simple and clear message.
“Israel is here to stay,” said Haas, who says that message would drive a stake through the Arab and Palestinian fantasy that Israel can be wiped off the map.
“You hear [the] expression all the time, ‘Palestine: From the River to the Sea.’ Well, Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea means no Israel. I think it’s time for the United States to send a very clear message to the world that Israel is here to stay, that Jerusalem is the historic homeland and capital of the Jewish people. That’s a reality,” said Haas.
“We are not doing anyone any good by ignoring the reality that Jerusalem is always going to be the capital of Israel. We might as well come to that recognition,” said Haas.
Haas believes the move would also be an important signal to Israel and the world that the Trump administration will approach the Middle East much differently than Obama has, particularly after the December United Nations vote in which the U.S. refused to veto a resolution condemning Israel for its settlements and other disputed lands.
Haas says the non-veto was bad enough, but the Obama administration’s actions behind the scenes was especially galling.
“They not only allowed it to go through but frankly they worked behind the scenes to ensure that there was enough support for it, so that while they were abstaining from it, everybody else was voting yes. It was beyond the benign action of a simple abstention,” said Haas.
Those actions left Haas livid.
“I reacted very furiously to it. It seemed to be the final nail in a sense that the administration had nailed into Israel’s coffin over the last eight years. The theory being that if they were tough on Israel, Israel would make very painful concessions and we would get peace,” said Haas.
He says the Obama strategy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a flop.
“In the process, they were very tough on our closest ally in the region. They didn’t really demand anything from the Palestinian side. As a result, the Palestinians dug in even harder. We didn’t see negotiations. The Israelis felt that they couldn’t compromise because they were being pressured so much and the Palestinians didn’t think they needed to compromise,” said Haas.
“It was a formula for disaster and that’s what we’ve had over the past eight years,” Haas added.
Haas rejects the notion that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would serve as a spark for even greater tension and instability in the region. He says that argument is based on two faulty assumptions.
“The Palestinians have never needed a reason to be violent against Israel, whether it is stabbing Jews in Jerusalem or it is shooting them in the West Bank or is ramming soldiers at checkpoints, the Palestinians always find an excuse to try to kill Jews,” said Haas.
He says Israel’s Arab neighbors will only be bothered by an embassy move from a public relations standpoint.
“The so-called Arab Street frankly I don’t think cares very much about the Palestinians. The Arab governments clearly don’t care about the Palestinians because they don’t do a thing to help them. They don’t provide any money to the Palestinians . They use this issue to divert attention from problems within their own countries,” said Haas.
“The reality is that to the extent countries will recognize Israel and work with Israel behind the scenes has to do with their own self-interests. Do they feel that they get more out of working with Israel or not working with Israel? This fear of being provocative I just don’t buy. I think there are larger forces at work that will determine Israeli relations with different Arab countries,” said Haas.