Having served as Israel’s ambassador to the UN from 1997 to 1999 and, among numerous other positions, as director general of the Israeli foreign ministry in 2015 and 2016, Dore Gold has had a front-row seat at many of his country’s major foreign-policy decisions. These include include its successful diplomatic outreach to Africa, Asia, and, most surprising and most gratifying, the Arab world. In conversation with Walter Russell Mead, he discusses what made the last-named initiative possible and speaks as well about the Iranian threat, the threats in the U.S. to continued bipartisan support for the Jewish state, relations between Israel and the Jewish diaspora, and how Israeli diplomacy can embody Jewish values. (Video, 52 minutes.)
An Insider’s View of Israel’s Diplomatic Revolution
At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down
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.