An Insider’s View of Israeli Diplomacy
Dore Gold at the Hudson Institute, November 27, 2018
Walter Russell Mead: How does Israel try to keep Middle East or Israel policy from becoming a purely partisan issue in the United States?
Dore Gold: That is a huge challenge. I can tell you in 1998 I was ambassador of Israel to the United Nations and I always worked with Democrats and Republicans. That was a clear rule. I got a strange request to come down to Austin, Texas, to meet with Governor George W. Bush. I met with Governor Bush. We had a great conversation and from there I went back to New York to my office. I said to myself, you know, I can’t just meet with the leading candidate for president of the United States in Austin, Texas, and not balance that out. So I got on the phone to Senator Lieberman from Connecticut who was still a Democrat, was not an independent. I told him, listen, I just did this, I just went down Austin, Texas, but I believe in a bipartisan policy. Help me here. So we got the Democratic Leadership Council a week later to sponsor a conversation with an Israeli diplomat in Washington and we had two U.S. senators, Democrats, and a few others came as well. But it was an important principle that I felt in my own diplomacy to always balance things out. But it’s becoming harder. Frankly, it is becoming harder, and I think it’s a mistake -Israel is not making a mistake. Israel knows that, and the man who knows that more than anybody is Prime Minister Netanyahu. But you know, it takes two to tango and you need to build those relationships as much as you can. So again, you reach out to Democrats, you reach out to Republicans, and you don’t get caught playing partisan politics in the United States.
You have to make a case to American Jews. You have to show that the same values they have are the values that we have. When we go to Africa and we try and improve people’s lives, that’s a Jewish value. We go as Jewish diplomats, not just as Israeli diplomats. When we try and protect innocent civilians in war, probably in a way that no other army does – and that isn’t just me speaking, you can ask Colonel Richard Kemp who said the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world and others who expose themselves to the details have reached that conclusion. But part of our problem with our American Jewish brothers is they may not be fully informed about what Israel does, and if they are, I don’t expect them to agree with us on everything, but at least they’ll understand that we’re made of the same material. And that would certainly help the next time we’re forced into conflict.
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Ambassador Dore Gold has served as President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs since 2000. From June 2015 until October 2016 he served as Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously he served as Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN (1997-1999), and as an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.