The Questions That No Senators Dared to Ask: Confidential Questions Prepared for Martin Indyk Hearing Are Revealing

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The Questions That No Senators Dared to Ask: Confidential Questions Prepared for Martin Indyk Hearing Are Revealing

By Eugene Bird

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its confirmation hearing for the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dr. Martin Indyk, on Feb. 2. Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC), who already had made it clear that he would not oppose the nomination of the former lobbyist for Israel, was conspicuously absent from the hearing. The three senators present, all closely identified with Israel, subsequently recommended confirmation, an action carried out by a Senate voice vote on March 3.

There were many questions the senators might have asked a nominee who, still as an Australian citizen, had been a media adviser to an Israeli prime minister; a senior policy analyst with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel's principal Washington, DC lobby; the founding executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank funded by AIPAC directors; and whose U.S. naturalization had to be accelerated to enable him to become the Clinton White House senior director for Near East and South Asian Affairs. None of this was touched upon in the hearings.

In fact, only Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI) raised a really serious question concerning Israeli settlements and their devastating impact on the peace process. Appearing late, the former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked for Indyk's views on settlements. Indyk said they were a problem that complicates the negotiations with a "negative impact on the Palestinians and in the Arab world as well."

Noting that 4,000 new apartments had just been authorized by a new Rabin-appointed committee, Indyk said it was his "understanding that they will be in existing settlements" and that the Israeli prime minister had made clear to Yasser Arafat that there would be no new settlements, and that no new Arab lands would be taken except for roads needed for redeployment.

When Pell asked about the rate of privatization and whether or not U.S. aid should be focused more on that problem in the Israeli economy, Indyk retreated and explained that first of all the key factor was that Israel must know that "politically and strategically" it could really rely on the United States to continue aid. Second, Indyk said, in a truly frank exchange, that "the problem with your suggestion is that our aid is now structured in a way in which we basically hand over the money in a check at the beginning of each year...To try to redirect that money in any way would be a little complicated."

Interestingly, Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff members had prepared an unusually long 10-page briefing memorandum for the hearings covering all aspects of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The Washington Report obtained a copy of this memorandum, prepared "for committee use only," and made up largely of "background and suggested questions." Unfortunately, very few of the "suggested questions" were asked. Following are verbatim excerpts from the Foreign Relations Committee memorandum dated Jan. 30, 1994.

Background

The United States and Israel have forged a special relationship since the foundation of the Jewish state in 1948. It is a multidimensional relationship, based on strategic, economic, political and cultural ties. Israel is, both currently and cumulatively, the number one beneficiary of U.S. foreign assistance.

Although some have alleged that the strategic underpinnings for the U.S. special relationship with Israel have evaporated with the end of the Cold War, the vast majority of the U.S. political establishment, including the Clinton administration and the 104th Congress, continue to be supportive of the relationship.

Questions

1) Some commentators have suggested that in the post-Cold War world with the end of the superpower rivalry, the Arab-Israeli conflict no longer has much direct impact on American national interests. …