Pro-Israel Jews Play Ominous Role in Clinton Administration

Published: 1998-01-01

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Richard H. Curtiss served as a career foreign service officer with the US Department of State and the US Information Agency, with postings in Indonesia, Germany, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and other countries. When he retired from the foreign service in 1980, he was chief inspector of the US Information Agency. Curtiss is author of Changing Image: American Perspectives of the ArabIsraeli Dispute and Stealth PACs: Lobbying Congress for Control of US Middle East Policy. He is currently Executive Director of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (P.O. Box 53062, Washington, DC 20009). This article is reprinted from the Jan.-Feb. 1998 issue of The Washington Report.

United States history of the past half-century is replete with instances of the pro-Israel community in America taking on the US foreign affairs establishment and winning. Two examples will suffice to show how long this has been going on.

In a meeting with President Harry Truman in 1945, heads of US diplomatic missions in the Middle East advised strongly against partitioning Palestine, saying it would result in a bloodbath in the short run and major problems for the United States in the Middle East and Asia in the long run. They were right, as history has proven. But President Truman's reply then was, "I am sorry gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents." Truman put American diplomatic muscle behind the partition resolution in the United Nations. In November 1947, partition prevailed, and fighting broke out almost immediately afterward.

Six months later, in May 1948, the question of diplomatic recognition for the Jewish state arose. Clark Clifford, Truman's domestic political adviser, warned him that if he did not recognize Israel he might lose the 1948 presidential election. General of the Armies George Marshall, America's top-ranking World War II military leader, who by then was serving as Truman's Secretary of State, counseled strongly against recognizing the soon-to-be State of Israel before it defined its borders. In Marshall's words, "I said bluntly that if the president were to follow Mr. Clifford's advice and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President." Three days later, Truman recognized Israel eleven minutes after in proclaimed its independence. Nearly 50 years later Israel still has not defined its borders.

Things have come a long way since America's organized Jewish community scored those first major victories over common sense, US national interests, and the entire US foreign affairs establishment. In fact, in the administration of President Bill Clinton the pro-Israel portion of the Jewish community has become America's foreign affairs establishment.

In the State Department, the occupant of every position designated for assistant secretaries of state for regional affairs is Jewish or soon will be. And don't be misled by the "assistant" in the titles. The six regional assistant secretaries for Europe, the Near East, Africa, South Asia, the Far East, and Latin America and the Caribbean are the top foreign affairs officials for each of those geographic areas, which together encompass the world.

When it comes to the State Department's "Middle East peace team," the two top political appointees, Dennis Ross and his deputy, Aaron David Miller, both are Jewish with a long history of personal support for Zionism and residence in Israel.

Similarly, a large percentage of other top-echelon State Department political appointees and ambassadors are Jewish. A US ambassador who happened to be visiting Washington in October remarked to the writer that during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, many State Department offices took on the forlorn, nearly deserted visage that used to characterize the brief interval between Christmas and New Year's day.

U.S. President Harry S Truman

President Harry Truman was warned by his top foreign policy advisers, including Secretary of State George C. Marshall, of grave long-term international problems if the United States backed the new Zionist state of Israel. Citing Jewish influence and pressure, Truman nevertheless decided in May 1948 to give US recognition and support to Israel.

The same was true in the White House, where the top two foreign affairs officials, National Security Advisor Samuel Berger and his deputy, John Steinberg, are Jewish, as is Vice President Al Gore's national security advisor, Leon Furth. So are a lot of other White House policymakers. One of them, Clinton domestic political adviser Rahm Emmanuel, actually went to Israel for one month's service during the 1991 Gulf war in the Israel Defense Force "Overseas Volunteer Unit" to enable IDF personnel in essential civilian jobs to join their military units at the front. Emmanuel's Israeli father was a member of Menachem Begin's underground terrorist militia, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, and Rahm Emmanuel's uncle was killed while serving with Israeli forces in the 1948 war.

Nor is there anything particularly incongruous about the high percentage of top Jewish officials in the Clinton White House and foreign affairs establishment. In some other government departments, the situation differs only in the details.

Ironically, Secretary Donna Shalala of the Department of Health and Human Services is the only Arab American in the cabinet. But, according to HHS insiders, most of her second echelon officials, all White House appointees, are Jewish. So are a remarkably high percentage of top officials in the National Institutes of Health, which supervise hundreds of research grants at home and abroad.

A Similar Situation

At the Department of Commerce the situation is similar, even after the resignation of Secretary of Commerce Mikey Kantor, a long-time pro-Israel activist and Clinton's 1992 election campaign man ager. At the Pentagon and CIA, at political appointee levels (in contrast to career military and CIA officers), things are not that different.

Israelis consider Secretary of Defense William Cohen, a former Republican senator, Jewish, although he says he dropped out of the Jewish faith as a teenager. John Deutch, a CIA director in the first Clinton administration, also is Jewish, with close personal ties to Israel, including Israeli relatives and a residence there. Deutch is said to have resigned from the CIA position only because he was not appointed Secretary of Defense in the second Clinton administration.

The record of a staff meeting at Secretary Robert Rubin's Treasury Department early in the second Clinton administration shows that when top echelon leaders were discussing the best times to make announcements the Treasury does not want the American public to notice, one official said: "The time to do it is Christmas or Easter, since those are their two biggest holidays."

The "they" the official was speaking about in the apparently all-Jewish meeting were, of course, the 90 to 95 percent of US taxpayers who are of Christian heritage but who, in the Clinton administration, are so dramatically under-represented in top foreign policy-making positions.

This situation became so obvious early in the first Clinton administration that on September 2, 1994, Avinoam Bar-Yosef, Washington correspondent for Ma'ariv, Israel's most influential daily, wrote a lengthy and highly revealing report headlined, "The Jews in Clinton's Court." With the situation still further out of balance in the second administration, other Jewish journalists are reluctant to write about it further, and non-Jewish journalists are afraid to.

Outside the executive branch, both Clinton appointments to the nine-member Supreme Court are Jewish. In Congress some ten percent of senators are Jewish, as are 7.7 percent of the members of the House of Representatives. Yet no more than five million Americans describe themselves as Jewish, meaning less than two percent of a population of 260 million Americans.

Reactions to this astonishing imbalance between the governed and governing classes are mixed. Most Middle Easterners are aware of it and are baffled. The situation would be considered extremely dangerous in most of the Middle Eastern "mosaic societies" that endure in the wake of the vanished Ottoman empire. Minorities are represented in most governments in direct proportion to their percentage in the population.

In countries like Syria, where members of a Shi'i Muslim minority dominate a Sunni Muslim majority, or Iraq, where the exact opposite is true, the situation is considered unstable and endures only because both governments have adopted harsh police state methods to punish unrest.

Europeans, who are belatedly becoming aware of the current US peculiarity, only shake their heads knowingly. They are quick to attribute the arrogance and vindictiveness that characterize current US foreign policy to the working out of old anti-European and anti-Arab hostilities by US officials pursuing a separate pro-Israel agenda. Politically sophisticated Europeans point out, off-the-record, that Israel-driven US policies ultimately could result in serious US reverses in many parts of the world.

Europeans almost unanimously (and perhaps hopefully) predict that such reverses ultimately will provide the catalyst for American anti-Semitism almost as virulent as that manifested in Germany before and during World War II, or the anti-Semitism which now lies barely below the surface in countries as diverse as France, Austria, Switzerland, Poland and Ukraine.

Americans seem less conscious of the imbalance within their own government because of the unwillingness of the mainstream US media to acknowledge that it exists. Negative reactions among US government officials who are aware of the situation are never expressed publicly – and only among trusted friends.

In fact the situation within the current administration is remarkably like that within the media a generation or two ago when American Jews assumed dominant roles in America's "elite" or "national" press. In 1980, during a Foreign Service Institute seminar with a rabbi from nearby George Washington University, the writer remarked on the preponderance of Jewish publishers, editors and investigative reporters on America's two "newspapers of record," The New York Times and The Washington Post , and various national magazines. With no trace of defensiveness, the rabbi responded: "I used to think that too, but then I discovered that many of the media figures I had assumed were Jewish actually were not."

The writer pondered at length about what this could possibly mean. Perhaps that, although many of the media elite then and now are of Jewish heritage, they aren't actual paid-up members of a synagogue? Using that sort of reasoning, one could unhesitatingly say that fewer than 50 percent of the American people are Christian. But of course, this "true" statement would be grossly misleading. Whatever his motives, the rabbi was fooling no one but himself.

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Israeli parliament in 1994 as Bill Clinton looks on

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Israeli parliament in 1994 as Bill Clinton looks on.

The same is true of American public perception of the present Jewish influence in Washington. Americans don't talk about it openly because it's politically incorrect to do so. But that doesn't mean they're not aware of it.

Remarked one retired foreign service officer to the writer, "The situation is so extraordinary and the misuse of his newly acquired Jewish power within the Clinton administration is so obvious, that it can't last. We are witnessing the peak of Jewish power in America right now. It has nowhere to go but down."

This is contested by Canadian-born former Mossad case worker Victor Ostrovsky, who was raised in Israel but returned to the land of his birth after he quit the Mossad in disgust. Things will not change soon in either the US or Canada, he predicts. In the name of helping Israel, North American Jews not only are consolidating the power they have quietly achieved, he insists, but also are steadily grasping for more. The long-term result, he says, will be such virulent anti-Semitism that most of what Jews have built for themselves in the New World will be swept away.

Nor, Ostrovsky predicts, would the Israelis, who are the catalyst for this self-destructive "overweening pride" among their American co-religionists, shed any tears over the downfall of their US backers. "The Israelis believe that all of these American Jews should have come to Israel as soon as it was created," Ostrovsky says. "Therefore, if they ultimately lose their privileged status in American life, it serves them right."

Ostrovsky says also that few Israelis worry about what will happen to their country if the hand of organized American Jewry is removed from the US foreign policy tiller. "It's the farthest thing from the minds of the Israelis," he says. "Illogical as it is, Israelis give their American cousins little or no credit for Israel's current secure place in the world. Therefore they don't worry at all about what will happen to Israel if American Jews lose their political influence in Washington."

If Ostrovsky is correct in his assessment of his former Israeli compatriots, detachment from reality and overweening pride are not an American monopoly. In fact, the reckless over-confidence of Israel's Likud party prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, already has squandered most of the remarkable achievements of his two Labor party predecessors, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, in gaining acceptance of Israel by some 18 of the 22 members of the League of Arab States. Moreover, before he is through, Netanyahu's reckless arrogance may similarly undermine the remarkable achievements of Israel's dedicated supporters within the American Jewish community.

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Author(s): Richard H. Curtiss
Title: Pro-Israel Jews Play Ominous Role in Clinton Administration
Sources: The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 17, no. 2 (March/April 1998), pp. 27-30; reprinted from The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Jan.-Feb. 1998.
Published: 1998-01-01
First posted on CODOH: Jan. 14, 2013, 6 p.m.
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