I wish to take the unusual step of asking the President of the United States, The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, to recall the current US Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Martin Indyk.
That is because Mr. Indyk has taken the unusual step of interfering with the internal affairs of the state of Israel, while making statements that have been highly inappropriate.
In Mr. Indyk’s recent prepared remarks that were delivered at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem on September 16, 2000, the US ambassador made the tendentious statement that “There is no solution but to share the holy city…and cannot be the exclusive preserve of one religion”.
Commenting on Indyk’s remarks, the Guardian correspondent described them as “sharp departure from Washington orthodoxy in recent years”.
And where did Indyk get praise for such remarks?
For one, from a leading Washington-based Arab lobbyist, as quoted in by the Guardian, who declared that “we are pleased to hear in public what we have been hearing privately for many years from the US administration”.
Indyk also stepped over a clear red line when he meddled in the sensitive internal religious affairs in Israel, by expressing support for the “secularist revolution” that Israeli Prime Minister has recently been floating in the Knesset, an idea which is now in the heart of Israel’s INTERNAL public debate.
The US amabssador’s intervention in such an internal matter led a leading liberal commentator for HaAretz, Akiva Eldar, to express his surprise that Indyk had interfered with what is clearly an internal Israeli matter, asking that one can “imagine what American citizens would say if the Israeli ambassador to Washington were to come to a local religious institution and say such things”.
Just imagine the American outcry that would portend if Israeli officials were to express their feelings concerning American church-state controversies.
I believe that I speak for a consensus of public opinion in Israel when I take issue with such interference in the democratic process of the state of Israel.
Ambassador Indyk’s remarks about Jerusalem remain an affront to Israel, particularly since he made them in the heart of the city that he aspires to divide.
It is likewise inexplicable that a foreign ambassador to Israel would choose to interject his private religious preferences into the debate over secular-religious tensions in Israel.
This is not the first time that US Ambassador Indyk has interfered in the internal affairs of our country: Last January, immediately following Indyk’s return to Tel Aviv, the US embassy began to lobby Israeli Arab leaders regarding a possible referendum on the Golan Heights.
Mr. Indyk has neglected a vital role that he could have played to forward the peace process, since the US plays a formal, key role as the designated chair of the US-ISRAELI-PLO incitement monitoring committee that was set up by the US following the Wye Accords.
Mr. Indyk’s predecessor, Mr. Ned Walker, made every effort to energize this committee. For whatever reason, the current US ambassador has for whatever reason seen to it that this vital organ of the peace process has stopped functioning.
As a result, the daily incitement to war in the official Palestinian media has gone unchecked, without any response whatsoever from the US ambassador.
The Palestinian Authority has issued new school books that relate to Israel as if it does not exist. “Palestine” covers all of Israel on the official Palestinian maps. The name of Israel is not even mentioned. Meanwhile, Israeli cities such as JAffa and Haifa are described as Palestinian cities.
This is Palestinian education that is designed to eternalize the confrontation, and to prepare the future generations of Palestinian children for conflicts in the future, not for peace or coexistence.
All this has gone unchecked, and, surprisingly, without any response from the US ambassador.
It was the task of the US embassy in Tel Aviv to monitor and respond to such incitement.
Yet the current US ambassador chose not to carry out this vital task ole.
As the former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and the current chairman of the nonpartisan Knesset state control committes (the equivalent of the governmental affairs committees in western parliaments and the US Congress) I have been a consistent advocate of stronger ties between the US and Israel.
The time has come to repair the damage that has been done to this special relationship between our peoples by seeing to it our diplomats respect the internal affairs of our respective nations.
The writer is the Chairman, of the Knesset government control committee and the former chairman of the Kneset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee