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A Troublesome Truth

Author: Scott B. Lasenksy
December 16, 2002


Regarding "The hyperactive ambassador," by Israel Harel, Ha'aretz, December 13, 2002

Israel Harel's criticism of U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer not only stinks of an outmoded Israeli attitude toward Diaspora Jews ("please send your checks, not your opinions") but wrongfully reproaches Kurtzer for wearing two hats - "that of the American ambassador and that of a Jew." On the latter score, both veteran Middle East watchers and two generations of American officials know Kurtzer does not wear his religion on his sleeve (though at appropriate private occasions, he has been known to wear it on his head!) Kurtzer is a diplomat's diplomat.

What really bothers Harel is the truth - that aggressive settlement activity in the territories has been a major strategic mistake for Israel, and that political life in the country is held hostage by no more than a few thousand settler leaders and activists who deftly managed to convince governments (both Labor and Likud) to invest significant national resources in a project that now lacks a national consensus. (Admittedly, this is a view I borrow from hawkish Israeli strategists in Washington.)

In case Harel is curious, Kurtzer's Herzliya comments are increasingly echoed inside the Beltway by other prominent U.S. officials, past and present, who share the ambassador's view. Granted, President Bush has given Israel a pass on the settlement building. But ultimately, Israelis carry the burden.

Scott Lasensky

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