Nearly every former US ambassador to Tel Aviv said that they disagree with President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
All but two of the 11 former United States ambassadors to Israel contacted by The New York Times said that the plan was wrongheaded, dangerous or deeply flawed.
The overriding view amongst the former diplomats was echoed by Daniel C. Kurtzer, who was the ambassador from 2001 to 2005, under President George W. Bush. “There are many downsides, both diplomatically and in terms of the Middle East peace process, and no upside,” Kurtzer told the paper.
We are isolated internationally once again — except for the Israeli government, which supports this — and we are taking ourselves out of the role the president says he wants to play as a peace broker.
The former ambassadors rejected Trump’s reasoning over the decision that the peace process, with the goal of a two-state political solution, was dormant, and needed to be shaken up. “The fact that the process is moribund calls for a much more dramatic role,” he said. “It doesn’t call for the US to lean over and adopt the position of one party and offer nothing to the other party,” Kurtzer added.
Others said: “This is a risky move, which no doubt will cost lives in Israel and the region, particularly as Israeli settlers use it to justify accelerating their activity further.”
US ambassadors to Israel are known for taking an extreme pro-Israeli stance. Martin S. Indyk who served as ambassador twice, both times during Bill Clinton’s presidency, for example, was a known favourite of AIPAC. However the pro-Israel diplomat had become disillusioned with the direction Israel is heading and singled out its settlement activity in the occupied West Bank as the key reason for the failure of the US peace effort. In recent years Indyk is said to have gone from “AIPAC man to blaming Israel”. Indyk said that Trump did not listen to his advice.
Others accused Trump of making a “slightly reckless” and even “kind of a masochistic move” that might “undermine his own, repeatedly discussed, ‘great deal’ of bringing peace to the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Edward P. Djerejian, who was the ambassador from 1993 to 1994, said Trump’s comments were inherently contradictory. In order to limit the damage of his announcement, Trump’s insisted that “the specific boundaries” of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem had yet to be settled. But Djerejian said there was “an inherent contradiction” in recognising Jerusalem without saying what, exactly, comprises Jerusalem. “The timing and substance of this new position serves to confuse rather than clarify.”
Another diplomat concluded: “It doesn’t make Israel safer, the United States safer, or the region more stable.” The decision was “a pretty serious mistake,” said James B. Cunningham, who was ambassador under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Cunningham went on to say that moving the embassy would have made sense only as “part of a strategy, not simply to demonstrate that you’re trying to do something different.”