Comments about Israel Torpedo Intelligence Post Nominee

On Tuesday, Charles Freeman, Jr. withdrew his name from consideration for a top intelligence post, a nomination which must be approved by Congress.  Freeman claimed that he was a victim of the “Israel lobby.” 

 

For years, Freeman has been critical of Israel and American policy towards that country.  In 2006, he said “Left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them and enrage those who are not.”  In 2005, he said “As long as the United States continues unconditionally to provide the subsidies and political protection that make the Israeli occupation and the high-handed and the self-defeating policies it engenders possible, there is little, if any, reason to hope that anything resembling the former peace process can be resurrected.”

 

Democratic members of Congress pressed the Obama administration to withdraw the nomination.  Senator Charles Schumer of New York telephoned White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to inform him about Freeman’s comments about Israel.  Schumer said that Freeman’s statements were “over the top” and demonstrated an “irrational hatred of Israel.” 

 

Representative Steve Israel of New York also contacted Emanuel and called for an investigation into Freeman’s ties with the Saudi and Chinese governments to examine conflicts of interest that might jeopardize his ability to perform the duties of the post for which he was nominated.  Freeman was formerly an ambassador to Saudi Arabia and served on the board of a state-owned Chinese corporation.

 

Israel said “I was prepared to present my case to anyone at the White House who would listen to it.”

 

Pro-Israel lobbying groups also pressured the Obama administration. 

 

Steven Rosen, a former leader of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, wrote on his blog that Freeman’s views are “What you would expect in the Saudi Foreign Ministry” rather than an American intelligence official.”

 

The Zionist Organization of America sent out an “action alert” message urging members of Congress to investigate Freeman’s ties to Saudi and Chinese entities. 

 

Ira Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, was in contact with the White House and said “I never detected any enthusiasm for this pick” from the Obama administration.

 

Some defended Freeman and his political views about Israeli policies and the American-Israeli relationship. 

Former ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan stated “The reality of Washington is that our political landscape finds it difficult to assimilate any criticism of any segment of the Israeli leadership.

 

Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, who selected Freeman for the job, praised Freeman’s strong views and quick mind, and said he wanted someone in the position who would not yield to “group think” in the intelligence community.

 

On an editorial note, I do not think Freeman’s views are irrational or demonstrate a hatred of Israel.  It seems like whenever someone prominent in Washington questions Israeli policies people imply that the person is anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.  Freeman’s criticisms of Israeli actions and the essentially unconditional support that the US gives to the Israeli government are legitimate.  The US must be more even-handed if it is going to reduce hatred for America in the Arab world and help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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