Departing the U.N.: Bolton the Contemptuous, Annan the Diplomat

By Williams, Ian | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2007 | Go to article overview

Departing the U.N.: Bolton the Contemptuous, Annan the Diplomat


Williams, Ian, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


IT WAS SOME consolation for Kofi Annan that his departure from the United Nations was followed closely by the exit of pro-tem U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, which has been euphemized as a resignation. In fact, the American electorate fired the U.S. ambassador in the mid-term elections, which doubled as a referendum on the administration's foreign policy that Bolton epitomized.

While most of the reality-based public welcomed his exit, a significant constituency of the pro-Israel community, ranging from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to the American Jewish Committee (AJC), loudly lamented his going, praising Bolton for his devotion to Israel. One has to consider the implications of this. American Jews voted overwhelmingly against Bush and his team, including Bolton, because they could see that his policies were bad for America. Yet these organizations, purporting to represent American Jewry, supported John Bolton because, they said, he was good for Israel.

This really is most indiscreet. Casting my mind back, I never heard anyone declare that Daniel Patrick Moynihan should stay in office because he was good for Ireland, or that Kissinger was good for Germany-not least because, whatever one thinks of these worthies' policies, they were always framed in terms of American interests.

What the organizations said about Bolton was true, of course. As the State Department official for arms control and disarmament, he was a frequent visitor to Israel, where he would cluck along with the Israeli Ministry about the threat of Iranian nukes-without ever being so rude as to mention his host's 200-plus nuclear warheads. On the Security Council he consistently wielded the veto on Israel's behalf.

However, far from being grounds for his retention, one would have thought that most American taxpayers shelling out for his office and salary would regard working hard for another country as grounds for dismissal, not praise!

And while Bolton has tried to represent the most regressive elements of Israeli politics, it is difficult to see how he has represented the interests of Jews, most of whom, in the wake of the Holocaust and Nuremburg, would profess support for international justice.

Bolton's proudest achievement in his previous job at the State Department was to "unsign" the treaty that committed the U.S. to the International Criminal Court, and then to bully and browbeat small countries across the world into signing agreements not to send U.S. citizens to the Court. And then, this year, he was forced to allow through a Security Council resolution setting the Court's prosecutors on the perpetrators in Darfur.

As pro-Israel lobbyists attempted to rally support for Bolton's nomination and confirmation, one of the issues for which he has been taking the credit is the 1995 overturning of U.N.'s "Zionism is Racism" resolution. It is true that he was working under James Baker at the time, but Bolton was the office boy carrying out instructions of the secretary of state and President George H.W. Bush. Moreover, it is worth remembering the circumstances.

Bush and Baker tried to pay their debts to the Arab leaders for their political and military support in the first Gulf war by pressing a reluctant Likud leadership into peace talks. One of the more memorable images was of Baker holding up the State Department phone number at a congressional hearing and inviting anyone in Israel who wanted peace to call the number.

As part of the same process, Bush and Baker refused to allow Congress to pay up $10 billion in loan guarantees that the Israeli leadership was using to build illegal settlements. With strong support, the two faced down AIPAC and defeated the lobby, which has never forgiven either of them.

In order to win back some ground with American Jews, Bush and Baker moved in the United Nations to overturn the "Zionism is Racism" resolution. Significantly absent from the General Assembly for this significant event was the Israeli ambassador, who pleaded the ceremonial pressures of Succoth. …

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