Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Senate Inquisitors Air Strobe Talbott's Views on Israel

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Senate Inquisitors Air Strobe Talbott's Views on Israel

Article excerpt

Senate Inquisitors Air Strobe Talbott's Views on Israel

"All fools aren't dead. Some of them aren't even sick." This witticism comes to mind while observing the reaction of some pro-Israel forces to President Clinton's nomination of Strobe Talbott to be deputy secretary of state.

Usually clever and successful in staging publicity that casts Israel in the best light possible, they have acted like juveniles in a hopeless campaign to frustrate Talbott's approval by the U.S. Senate.

As keen participants in our political process and experts on the personalities that lead it, they must have known that Talbott would easily win confirmation. The vote was 66 to 31. Instead of turning the inevitable to the best advantage possible by ignoring his past statements, they irritated the official they will want to influence in the future and advertised widely the solid criticism of Israel that he expressed years ago.

The result: Millions of Americans now know that President Clinton has a deputy secretary of state who has publicly described the state of Israel as an "outright liability," "heartless" and "rather nasty and bitter."

A veteran byline writer for Time magazine, as well as longtime friend and once the university roommate of Bill Clinton, Talbott is now second only to Secretary of State Warren Christopher as the American most influential in the world of diplomacy. He is the first top diplomat on the public record recognizing that U.S. Jews wield influence far beyond their numbers and describing Israel as a government that interferes successfully in U.S. politics.

Among the quotations widely circulated recently by U.S. Jewish organizations are the following from a Talbott article in the Sept. 7, 1981 Time:

"The sad fact is that Israel is well on its way to becoming not just a dubious asset but an outright liability to American security interests, both in the Middle East and worldwide...

"A policy aimed at inducing Israel to behave more compatibly with American global interests...might help rescue that [U.S.-Israel] relationship from the mistrust, misunderstandings and misconceptions that have begun to eat at its foundations--starting with the delusion that Israel is, or ever has been, primarily a strategic ally...

"Some of the [U.S.] aid is not critical to Israel's defense. In fact it amounts to a subsidy to the Israeli defense industry, which in turn sometimes competes with the U.S. on world markets...

"Israel sometimes seems to have taken on the visage and tone of a rather nasty and bitter nation, even a violent one...Israel has been interfering skillfully and successfully in U.S. politics for decades...

"It is high time for the U.S. to engage Israel in a debate over the fundamental nature of their relationship. If that means interfering in Israeli internal politics, then so be it."

On Oct. 10, 1990, Talbott wrote:

"Ariel busily creating `new facts,' in the form of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Saddam, too, is in the new-facts business with his systematic obliteration of Kuwait nationhood."

Jewish organizations inspired Senate Republicans to engage in a heavy attack against Talbott. …

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