Remembering Princeton Lyman, the American Diplomat Who Helped Arrange the Rescue of Ethiopian Jews

Aug. 29 2018

Princeton Lyman, a career diplomat born to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, died on Friday at the age of eighty-two. While his most celebrated accomplishment was probably his role in the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, he also played a crucial part in Operation Moses—Israel’s successful airlift of Ethiopian Jews in 1984. Ron Kampeas writes:

In a 1999 oral history for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, Lyman said he was one of only two U.S. diplomats who was fully apprised of the operation, involving secret flights from Sudan to Israel. He helped coordinate logistics between Israel and Sudan, which did not have diplomatic relations, and strove to keep at bay Ethiopian Jewry-advocacy groups in the United States who were scrambling for information, as well as the media.

“We had to keep the press quiet,” he said in 1999. “The Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New York Times, [and] the Wall Street Journal all had the story. Peter Jennings at ABC had the story. I had to go to every single one of them to beg them to sit on the story. I told them that if the operation were to go public, the Ethiopians would be in serious danger. I must say that every one of the media outlets suppressed the information they had; I don’t think that today that would be possible.” . . .

“Unfortunately, the Israeli media were not so disciplined” as the U.S. media, Lyman said. Once the word was out in Israel, a Washington Jewish newspaper reported the story—ignoring Lyman’s pleas—and the U.S. media felt free to publish. Sudan suspended the operation after 9,000 Jews had arrived, leaving 500 stranded. Vice-President George H.W. Bush then got involved.

Bush “went to Khartoum to see [the Sudanese president Gaafar] Nimeiri and to tell him that we wanted the last few hundred Ethiopians taken out,” Lyman said. “Nimeiri agreed, but it too was to be a secret operation. So American C-130s were to fly from Europe to the Sudan, take them on board, fly them up through the Red Sea—avoiding Egyptian radar—and deliver them to Israel. That was done. It was a magnificent operation which I monitored from the Pentagon ‘war room’ listening to the radio broadcasts as the planes landed and took off.”

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: Ethiopian Jews, George H. W. Bush, History & Ideas, South Africa, Sudan, U.S. Foreign policy

 

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations