The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is a thinktank that was spun off from the Israel lobby group AIPAC and that works hard to preserve the special relationship between Israel and the United States. This attitude was on display a week ago, when WINEP presented former policy-makers Elliott Abrams and Dennis Ross with awards as scholars and statesmen.
The ensuing discussion with Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute is fascinating for several reasons. There is no pretense of balance in the conversation: all three men are always on Israel’s side and fearful for its security. The Palestinians are blamed over and over as rejectionists; the word settlements is never mentioned. Asked why there is no peace, Ross states that Arafat’s very “identity” was against accepting Israel.
Yes and what about Jewish identity, and Zionist identity? Abrams says his greatest accomplishments in office were acts involving Jews, including asserting the Jewish right to colonize the West Bank. And you will see that Ross and Abrams are both strongly Jewish-identified; they speak of the cultural change inside the Establishment during the 70s and 80s, when Jews began to take policy positions. Ross describes a moment at the Pentagon when he supported Israel during a realist conversation about supplying arms to Israel and everyone looked at him like the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen is suddenly seen by the gentile family to be wearing “payos” — sidelocks.
Abrams describes a similar moment with George Shultz at State in the 80s, then asserts, amazingly, that Jews are discriminated against in hiring by the FBI and CIA and other government agencies.
I do not believe, unfortunately, that it [nondiscrimination] has permeated the CIA and FBI. I still find young people who I think are at a disadvantage in getting into those services or in getting promoted or in getting assignments because of their religion and because of, really, quite limited connections with Israel.
Abrams is asked what his best achievement was in gov’t service. Note that his two bests have to do with Jews, the second asserting the legality of the settlements, which he can’t call settlements.
ABRAMS: I’m going to have to give you two—divide them in half. Working for [Henry] “Scoop” Jackson and Ronald Reagan on what ultimately became a million Russian Jews moving to Israel, which really has changed Israel. [Applause] And then the famous letter: the April 14, 2004, letter of President Bush to Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister Sharon, which for the first time said clearly: Israel is going to keep the major [settlement] blocs, and there is no “right of return.” [Applause]
I like this Iraq bit. No one in the Israel lobby can admit this.
SATLOFF: Was the Iraq war a mistake?
ABRAMS: Too soon to tell.
Here is Abrams saying we didn’t go far enough in supporting Israel against Jewhaters in the Arab world.
ABRAMS:I think we have let the Palestinians, for too long, get away with raising, now, two generations of Jewhaters. You know, the word we use is incitement, which is not as nasty a word as it ought to be, because we’re talking about terrible forms of anti-Semitism here. And it goes on year after year after year… public opinion polls throughout the Arab world, but particularly in the West Bank and Gaza, show that five- and ten-year-old kids have horrendous attitudes not just toward Israel but toward Jews. I cannot believe that if, over the last thirty years, the United States made this a central issue, we wouldn’t be in a different position. But we never did.
Here is Dennis Ross talking about Jews gaining positions in the Establishment.
In 1977, the Israelis requested a ten-year arms-supply relationship… I was in the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, and I was asked to be one of about twenty people to assess this… And they’re going around the room, and every agency is represented, from the White House, the NSC all the different offices in the State Department, in the Pentagon, and everyone’s going around the room saying, they don’t need it. They can beat any combination of Arabs. So, it gets to me, and I say, well, that’s really not the right measure, is it? And I say, you know, we should be evaluating this in terms of, does it enhance Israeli deterrence—because if it enhances Israeli deterrence, then it reduces the prospect of war, number one. Number two, does it reduce the need for us to have to resupply the Israelis quickly—because the resupply in 1973 contributed to what was a potential confrontation with the Soviet Union. And so, if we don’t have to resupply right away, then that may reduce the prospect of us and the Soviets getting into something. And the third thing I said was, we should be focused on the whole issue of rapid war termination—does this make rapid war termination more likely, because, again, it reduces the prospects of escalation. And, you know, from an American standpoint, this is really in our vital interests. Now, everybody around that table looked at me—how many people here saw the movie Annie Hall? [Laughter] And you know when he’s with her family, and they look at him as wearing payos? [Laughter] Everybody around that table was looking at me as if I had payos. And they’re going, we didn’t know he was Jewish. You know, in the beginning, I felt this a lot. Over time, after the impact of George Shultz, I felt it much less.
Abrams speaks of the same cultural shift:
a Sandinista mob, at one point, set fire to the doors of a synagogue during a Sabbath service. Set fire to the doors, people were inside the synagogue. And there was a cable from the U.S. embassy in Managua saying, you know, this is an unfortunate incident, it’s a matter of concern, we shouldn’t go overboard on it—doesn’t really depict . . . It was an unbelievable cable, and I took it to Secretary Shultz and I said to him: for the first time, I understand what the State Department was like in the 1930s, when Jews were trying to get visas. And I wasn’t sure what his reaction was going to be, and his reaction was—he said, tomorrow morning at our senior staff meeting, I’m calling on you. So we all go to the senior staff meeting the next morning [and] he says, “Elliott has an interesting cable he needs to tell us about.” And he asked me to repeat the story, so that the message was crystal clear throughout the building, you know, and at all levels, what his view was. Now, I have to say, I think that view has permeated the State Department; I agree with Dennis. I do not believe, unfortunately, that it has permeated the CIA and FBI. I still find young people who I think are at a disadvantage in getting into those services or in getting promoted or in getting assignments because of their religion and because of, really, quite limited connections with Israel. So, I think, thanks to George Shultz and some others, we’ve done it at State; we have not done it throughout the U.S. government entirely.