Israel Resource Review 6th April, 2001


Should Daniel Kurtzer Be America's Next Ambassador to
Morton A. Klein
National President, Zionist Organization of America

There are hopeful signs regarding the Bush administration's policy toward Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Unlike his predecessor, President Bush refrained from interfering in the Israeli election and has said that he will not impose deadlines on the Arab-Israeli negotiating process. He has called upon Yasir Arafat to publicly condemn anti-Jewish terrorism, in Arabic, to Arab audiences. And he has used the U.S. veto at the United Nations to block an anti-Israel resolution.

At the same time, there are troubling signs coming from the State Department--it has criticized Israel's counter-terrorism tactics; it has pressured Israel to give funds to the Palestinian Authority, even though the PA is waging war against the Jewish State; it has implied a moral equivalence between Palestinian Arab aggression and Israeli self-defense; it has not yet offered a single reward for information leading to the capture of Palestinian Arab killers of Americans, even though it routinely offers such rewards to capture terrorists who kill Americans elsewhere around the world.

There seems to be a struggle underway between competing views within the administration regarding Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. In this context, the selection of America's next ambassador to Israel is especially important. The ambassador's reports to Washington play a crucial role in shaping the administration's policies.

That's why it is so disappointing to hear that veteran State Department official Daniel Kurtzer is a leading candidate for the post of ambassador to Israel.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with someone who has had considerable personal experience with Kurtzer: Yitzhak Shamir, who served as prime minister of Israel for most of the period from 1983-1992. Mr. Shamir told me: "Kurtzer frequently pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions to the Arabs; he constantly blamed Israel for the absence of Mideast peace, and paid little or no attention to the fact that the Palestinians were carrying out terrorist attacks and openly calling for the destruction of Israel."

In fact, Kurtzer's bias goes all the way back to his graduate school days. In his Ph.D. dissertation (Columbia University, 1976), Kurtzer said Israel's counter-terror actions were the "catalysts to interstate violence," and blamed Israel for "the radicalization of the Palestinians to violence" (p.253). Throughout the dissertation, Kurtzer referred to Palestinian Arab terrorists as "guerrillas," not as terrorists--even though he was discussing the groups that carried out such horrific massacres as the Lod Airport massacre of Puerto Rican tourists and the slaughter of Israeli athletes (including an American) at the Munich Olympics.

After joining the State Department, Kurtzer had the opportunity to put his opinions into practice. According to the New York Times (January 13, 1989), during 1988, when the PLO was engaged in constant terrorism against Israel, Kurtzer was insisting "that the PLO under Yasir Arafat was moving in a moderate direction." Kurtzer became "a key figure in the process of formulating" the U.S. decision to recognize the PLO in December 1988. (Kurtzer's claim of PLO "moderation" proved to be completely mistaken, because the PLO continued its terrorism and in early 1990, the U.S. broke off its dealings with Arafat.)

In 1992, syndicated columnist Douglas Bloomfield revealed (Washington Jewish Week, December 17, 1992) that in a recent meeting, Kurtzer "lectured Israeli negotiators" that "they should make additional concessions to the unresponsive Palestinians. Kurtzer and the other Jewish State Department officials told the Israelis they were speaking to them as 'family' and in their best interest. The Israelis were outraged and the session got very heated."

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Background Analysis: The Proposed Appointment of Daniel Kurtzer as US Ambassador to Israel
Martin Sieff

WASHINGTON - An Orthodox Jew who was a leading member of former President Clinton's peace negotiating tream looks set to be appointed ambasador to Israel this week, angering powerful supporters of the Jewish state in the Bush administration.

Daniel Kurtzer, who has kept a kosher kitchen in Cairo as U.S. ambassador to Egypt, is expected to be announced this week as the next U. S. ambassador to Israel. He will be the second Jew to hold that post, following his longtime associate and friend Martin Indyk, who held it twice under Clinton.

Kurtzer's apointment is a victory for Secretary of State Colin Powell and his director of policy planning Richard Haass.

Powell has sought to maintain continuity as much as possible with the policies of Clinton and the first Bush administration around the world. He has also sought to promote to key policymaking veterans of the U.S. foreign service, which Kurtzer is.

Kurtzer has also worked closely with Haass on promoting the Oslo Peace Process and on advocating continued strong U.S. support of Egypt. He is expected to work closely and well with William Burns, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan whom Powell has chosen to run Middle East policy at the State Deparmtent as head of the Bureau of Near East Affairs.

But Kurtzer's expected appointment has angered hawkish, strong supporters of Israel in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. He is seen by them as one of the key champions architects of the Oslo Peace Process in the Clinton administration, and as an integral part of the tiny, close-knit team led by former peace envoy Dennis Ross and Indyk who energetically pushed U.S. hands-on paritcipation to further that process.

These figures include Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his powerful and influential deputy Paul Wolfowtiz and key figures in Congress in leading and shaping Republican attitudes on foreign policy, especially Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Rep Chris Cox in the House of Representatives. Kurtzer's appointment will have to be confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Helms chairs. Helms is expected to go along with the appointment publicly in order not to defy or anger the new president of his own party. Burt he is not an admirer of Kurtzer.

The distrust of Kurtzer is rooted in his refusal to pressure Egypt over the increasingly blatant anti-Semitism in its government-influenced media.

He himself was often the butt of anti-Semitic caricatures in the Egyptian press over his own strict adherance to Orthodox Jewish practice. Kurtzer has been a Foreign Service Officer, or career diplomat , of the United States for a quarter of a century and has focused on the Israel-Arab peace process. But he has been much more high profile, poltiiczed and cotnroversial than most career service officers.

Seen as a popular and likable team player at the State Department, he was an early, and outspoken adocate of Israeli negotiations with the Palestine Liberaiton Organization.

In 1989, three years before the Oslo Peace Process began, Kurtzer was a major contributer to a then-highly controversial speech by Secretary of State James A. Baker III to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that called on then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and other right wing Israeli leaders, including currrent Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, to abandon the "unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel" that included the West Bank and Gaza.

Kurtzer remains controversial. This month, he angered many congressional Republicans who want to reduce America's $2 billion a year aid to Egypt by describing the U.S.-Egypt relationship as "rock solid."

He told the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt in a speech, "Egypt and the United States continue to share fundamental interests in common, and our governments continue to value this as a strategic relationship."

Republican leaders found the speech particularly infuriating because they were still seething that Egypt had refused to allow the crippled destroyer, USS Cole to sail the short way into the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal after it was the victim of a terrorist attack last year by Islamic suicide bombers in the Yemeni port of Aden.

Kurtzer is expected, if confirmed, to act on behalf of Secretary Powell as a restraining influence and counterweight to the pro-Israel Pentagon hawks.

But so far in Washington, the hawks, backed by Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, have won major policy battles on North Korea, Russia, China and Iraq at Powell's expense, even though Powell has had a free hand to make key diplomatic appointments, such as Kurtzer's, in State.

Washington Times -- March 27, 2001

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"Voice of Palestine" claims Shalhevet murdered by her mother

For a full week, following the sniper slaying of 10-month old Shalhevet Pass in Hebron, the official Palestinian Authority press made no mention of the killing.

On April 2, 2001, the morning after Shalhevet's funeral, journalist Michael Widlanski, completing his PHD on the subject of the official media of the Palestinian Authority, provided the following excerpt from the radio commentary of senior Voice of Palestine commentator Youssef al-Kazaz, broadcast on the Palestinian Authority flagship radio station, Voice of Palestine, on 2 April 2001 at 8:39 a.m.:

"On the matter of the baby settler who was killed in Hebron a few days ago, we already said that her death was a fishy action and there is information according to which this baby was retarded and it was her mother who killed her in order to get rid of her."

Gideon Meir, deputy director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs division of public affairs commented that: "The things that were broadcast on Voice of Palestine are testimony to just how low the Palestinians are willing to go in order to win world public opinion. It would be bad enough if they used false material in their propaganda but to stick Israel with such a lie is such insolence and gall that it raises the contempt of any human being."

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director of IMRA, "Independent Media Review & Analysis", provided the Gideon Meir comment.

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A "Sane" Visit by Amnesty International in Jerusalem?
David Bedein, Media Research Analyst

The secretary general of Amnesty International, Mr. Pierre Sane (pronounced Sa-Ney), gave a press conference this week during his visit.

Sane reported about his visit to Arab homes that had been shelled in Gaza, to Arab homes that had been shelled in Beit Jalla, about his meeting with Arab victims of violence from the past few months, about his meeting with PLO leader Yassir Arafat and his meeting with the director of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Mr. Avie Gil.

Sane presented a human rights agenda for the peace process in which Amnesty International endorsed the PLO position for the Right of Return to homes lost in 1948, which Sane defined as a "fundamental human right that politicians have no right to negotiate".

I asked Mr. Sane if he would be visiting Jewish victims. He had no reply.

I asked Sane if he would visit Gilo in addition to visiting Beit Jalla. He again had no reply.

I showed Mr. Sane the PLO map of the Right of Return that the PLO sells at the PLO Orient House headquarters in Jerusalem, where the 531 Arab villages are "returned" to replace Israeli cities, collective farms and woodlands.

In light of this map, which essentially obliterates Israel, I asked Sane if he still supported the Right of Return.

Sane said that he did, because Amnesty supports the right of return of ALL populations who were dislocated by war.

I asked if that applied to the three million Germans who were forced out of their homes and villages after 1945, only three years before 650,000 (the highest UN estimate) of Palestinian Arabs fled their homes in 1948. Sane would not answer.

Sane described his meeting with Arafat concerning legal reforms and human rights in glowing terms, however.

In that light, I asked Sane if Amnesty would ask Arafat to reverse his policies of granting asylum to wanted killers who committed crimes in Israel and escaped to the safe haven of the PA. I also asked Sane if Amnesty would ask Arafat to stop releasing convicted killers from PA jails. Sane had no response to either question.

Sane did express his disappointment that he was not being warmly received by the Israeli government.

I wonder why.

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Exchange of Letters Between Imra and Amnesty International
Dr. Aaron Lerner

IMRA sent two notes with questions to Amnesty International:

First message:

Dear R Campbel of Amnesty International, Further to our telephone conversation, the following is our question:

The following line appears in your report "Israel/Occupied Territories: Amnesty International condemns state assassinations" of 21.2.2001:

"International humanitarian law prohibits the targeting of civilians. A Fatah member of the Palestinian Legislative Council told Amnesty International delegates that settlements, being built in Occupied Territories, were considered by Fatah as military targets. Amnesty International stressed that the houses and those living in settlements who were not carrying arms could not be considered as military targets."

Does this mean, in the view of Amnesty International, that settlers who carry weapons for protection when they drive on the roads in the territories can be considered a military target?

By the same token, if a family of settlers keeps a weapon in their home does Amnesty International consider their home a military target?

Best regards,

Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA
Tel 972-9-7604719
Fax 972-3-5480092

Second message:

Dear Rachel Campbel,

I look forward to receiving the reply.

Three additional questions:

1. According to page 29 of your report "Armed Palestinians who directly participate in hostilities for example by shooting at Israeli soldiers or civilians - lose their protected status for the duration of the attack . . Because they are not combatants, the fact that they participate in an armed attack at an earlier point cannot justify targeting them for death later on."

By Amnesty International standards which of the following groups qualifies as "civilian"?

  • Members of the Palestinian Authority security services
  • Members of (Yasser Arafat's) Fatah militias
  • Members of Hamas and other militias not formally associated with the PA or the PA leadership

2. The same page of the report states that "there are no Palestinian objects in the Occupied Territories that meet the criteria of military objectives. Certain objects may be attacked while they are being used for firing upon Israeli forces. But they revert to their status as civilian objects as soon as they are no longer being used for launching attacks."

By Amnesty International standards, are the Palestinian Authority armed security forces and their facilities to be considered "civilian?"?

By Amnesty International Standards, how how much time must pass for an object to gain the status of "no longer being used for launching attacks"? An hour? A day? A week?

Best regards,

Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA

Reply from Amnesty International
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2001 7:02 p.m.
----- Forwarded by Rachel Campbell/I.S. / Amnesty International on 03/04/01 17:58 -----
To: Liz Hodgkin/I.S. / Amnesty International@Intsec 03/04/01 17:44
Subject: answers for Aaron Lerner(Document link: Rachel Campbell)

Dear Dr Lerner,

Thank you very much for your e-mails with your questions concerning our report. Here are some answers to your questions. Please note that our standards in the questions you raise are based on the UN Basic Principles for the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials which state that "intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life."

1) Relating to the status of settlers.

We consider that settlers, like Palestinians, even when bearing arms, are not legitimate targets and that they should not be targeted with lethal fire unless they are placing other lives in imminent danger.

2) Re "Civilians".

All the groups you mention (ie members of PA security services, members of Fatah militias, members of Hamas etc) can be considered civilians. There is no Palestinian state and there are no Palestinian armed forces, so the members of these groups remain civilians under international humanitarian law. However, we do consider that they have obligations under fundamental principles of international humanitarian and human rights law and we have repeatedly called on them to adhere to these standards (and not to target civilians, etc). We consider that, as with settlers above, they should only be targeted with lethal fire if they are putting other lives in imminent danger.

Re the time frame to gain status of "no longer being used for launching attacks": We don't have a particular time frame. You could look at the ICRC commentary of Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions for guidance which is what Amnesty would do.

I hope you find these answers helpful.

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