‘I’m thrilled to work with Israeli government because they want to do the right thing,’ US ambassador says, ahead of settlement announcement

US Ambasaador to Israel Thomas Nides (Olivier Fitoussi - Flash90)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  May 7, 2022

Days before Israel announced that it is going ahead with 4,000 new settlement units, the U.S. ambassador – who was reportedly briefed on the plans – says “I really respect this government… they really want to do the right thing,” and he is “thrilled to work with them.”

Yesterday the Israeli government announced that it is going ahead with 4,000 more settlement units, to keep its rightwing base happy; and the State Department bristled over them, but it’s not as if Joe Biden is going to cancel his trip scheduled for June. No, Joe Biden is an old hand at getting humiliated by Israel; he will murmur a protest and do nothing.

To understand the utter passivity of the Democratic Party when it comes to Israel’s expansionist policies, you should listen to Biden’s Ambassador to Israel speaking earlier this week. Thomas Nides has known about the settlement plans for weeks, Axios reported yesterday, and says he opposes them.

But in an hour-long discussion on Tuesday, Nides gushed over the rightwing Israeli government, saying, “They really want to do the right thing”:

“I really respect this government … I’ve … been thrilled to work with them because they really want to do the right thing … I’m a big fan of the government and we hope to continue working with them.”

Nides affirmed that Joe Biden is on Israel’s side–

This president refers to himself as a Zionist. He has been here multiple multiple times.

Nides never mentioned settlements, and Palestinians only came up once in that discussion. The understanding in progressive circles that Israel is an apartheid country that should be subject to boycott simply doesn’t exist for the ambassador.

“Everything I do is about strengthening a democratic Jewish state,” Nides said. And there’s a religious character to his mission; he said that he spoke “as a Jew” long involved in Jewish causes who has gone to the country “many, many times.”

‘Everything I do is about strengthening a democratic Jewish state’

As for Palestinians, Nides says he wants them to “believe in their heart that there’s still an opportunity for a two-state solution.” So he offered them crumbs.

The discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council Tuesday shows just how one-sided the Democratic Party leadership is on this issue, even as the base has become critical of Israel. Nides was interviewed by Obama’s Israel ambassador, Dan Shapiro, who moved to the country and has been a hack for its security establishment ever since; and their exchange sometimes has an air of Jewish supremacy.

Israel is so impressive, Nides gushes, a “military superpower” and “economic powerhouse” in just 74 years, filled with “masterminds.”

Think about this for a minute. This country is 74 years old. That’s not very old. Pretty impressive. It’s a military superpower, you know, it’s an economic powerhouse, it’s an intellectual masterminds, and it’s a thriving democracy. 74 years!…

We remind ourselves how great this country is, as young as it is, it’s only 74 years old, it’s still somewhat vulnerable … What really makes this country stronger is the will of this country to fight and to work and to make this a better place.

But you can’t “let the terrorists win,” because that ruins the place for everyone– Palestinians and Israelis and “the Arabs who live in Israel.”

Nides gives Trump credit for the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab monarchies, because they strengthen “a democratic Jewish state” and make the region safer.

We respect and love the Abraham Accords … I have said since the moment I got here, that I am all about strengthening a democratic Jewish state. That is my north star. Everything I do is about strengthening a democratic Jewish state, and there’s nothing in my personal view that has strengthened that more than the beginning of the Abraham Accords.

The Abraham accords involve a lot of bribery, as Nides suggests:

We’ve got to create the momentum… We’ve got to show the benefit to the other countries, of why it’s important to normalize with Israel, to have a relationship with Israel… I guess the United States is the bridesmaid or the matchmaker, and we got to keep that matchmaking going. And it’ s not easy. And I give the Trump administration credit, because each one of these countries wants something from us, and we want something from them, and they want something from the Israelis.

Nides sounds like a tourism minister for Israel.

Tourism is dramatically going up between Israel and the UAE. We’re trying to equally do that in Morocco and Bahrain, make sure all the ideas of promoting tourism and trade activities.

And he says he’s a club promoter, when it comes to the normalization deals:

You want to be a member of the club– an exclusive club. We’re part of the membership committee. We want to keep seeing that the membership keeps growing and flourishing.

You got to pay the club members to join:

They’re asking, What is the United States going to give us to be part of the club. How are we going to benefit from this club?

That’s both U.S. “hard power”:

Do you take this military action? Do you threaten this country?

And soft power.

“How we help governments grow, how we present them on the world stage.”

This is the only time the Palestinians come up– they don’t like the Abraham Accords, Shapiro points out. But Nides says the accords can help Palestinians, too.

I care about the Palestinian people. I want them to get the benefits, from more access to travel, education opportunities, health care, opportunities for their kids, and I think hopefully over the long term they’ll benefit from something like the Abraham accords and other opportunities ….At the end of the day our job is to create an environment where people say, OK, I want to be a part of this.

And what about their political rights in the democratic Jewish state? Nides tells them to hang on to hope.

We want to keep the vision, the vision of the two state solution up. If my north star is a strong democratic Jewish state, I fundamentally believe, to do that and to sustain that is to have people believe in their heart that there’s still an opportunity for a two-state solution… Obviously… we’d love to have the Palestinians benefit from the Abraham Accords.

Let’s get back to the Jewish state. Everyone comes here, including 78 Congresspeople, and Biden is a Zionist.

How much everyone cares about this place– I knew it intellectually, and I have been here many, many, many times and been involved in Jewish causes for a long time, but until you have 78 Congressmen visit you in four months …. The reality is everyone cares. And obviously this president really cares. This president refers to himself as a Zionist. He has been here multiple multiple times. Obviously a presidential trip is a big deal.

Nides says the rightwing Bennett government is trying to do the right thing, and “as an American Jew,” he’s a big fan. “It’s something else.”

I really respect this government. I didn’t know Prime Minister Bennett. I’d met the Foreign Minister [Yair Lapid] a few times, I’d met the Defense Minister [Benny Gantz] a few times, but I really hadn’t worked with this group of people.

As a Jew, an American Jew looking at this government, with Bennett considered center right, with Lapid center, with Gantz, center, center right. Then you have Mansour Abbas, the first Arab in a governing coalition– it’s remarkable. You have minister Shaked who’s more on the right, and you’ve got the combination of Meretz and Labor– it’s something else. It’s something else! and it’s working, it’s working! Again, I don’t get involved in domestic politics but we as the United States have a strong working relationship with these guys. And obviously that makes this unbreakable bond between our countries even stronger. I’ve been not only pleasantly surprised but I’ve been really anxious and thrilled to work with them. Because they really do want to do the right thing in a difficult situation … I’m a big fan of the government and we hope to continue working with them.

P.S. I think the Democratic politicians fawn over Israel because they know how important the Israel lobby is, both in campaign contributions and in blue-state political culture. No wonder the last three ambassadors are Jews who are totally on Israel’s side.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006