Ambassador Tom Nides told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an exclusive interview last Friday he was enamored with Prime Minister Yair Lapid for “his brave comments on the importance of the two-state solution” in Lapid’s recent speech before the United Nations General Assembly.
“We are under no illusions here that I will be standing in the Rose Garden receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for getting the two-state solution, but it’s important that we create the conditions on the ground for a two-state solution,” Nides said, adding: “And that includes helping the Palestinian people.”
And, naturally, while helping those nice “Palestinian people,” Nides reiterated the Biden administration’s policy on Jewish communities on the same lands, saying, “We do not support settlement growth. Period. I work every day behind the scenes, with the Israelis, to try and eliminate, slow down, or avoid that.”
He defended his right to meddle in Israel’s affairs, saying, “We can’t dictate to them what they can or can’t do, but I can put as much pressure as I can to make sure they understand our position.”
The ambassador also defended Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez’s right to warn Benjamin Netanyahu that should he include Ben-Gvir in his future government it would damage Israel’s relations with the US. Nides stressed that he “won’t get involved in the politics of Israel before an election,” but insisted that American politicians have the right to voice their opinions on anything and anyone.
“We are free to articulate our anxieties or concerns vis-a-vis making sure that the values that we state are played out here in Israel as well as we believe they should be,” Nides said.
Otzma Yehudit, MK Itamar Ben Gvir appeared on Channel 13 News and Ynet and accused Prime Minister Yair Lapid of enlisting US officials to prevent Ben Gvir’s inclusion in the next government. He insisted that this is a dangerous precedent when a prime minister invites the Americans to interfere in the elections in Israel. He also invited Lapid to file a defamation suit against him – Ben Gvir is ready to drop his Knesset immunity.
On Tuesday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Ca), a pro-Israel good guy, urged Israeli politicians to “ostracize” Ben-Gvir, declaring that Ben-Gvir’s “outrageous views run contrary to Israel’s core principles of a democratic and Jewish state.” Sherman insisted that “these extremists undermine Israel’s interests and the US-Israel relationship, which I and my colleagues have worked to strengthen.”
Of course, I would be astonished if Menendez or Sherman were familiar with Ben Gvir’s political agenda before the calls from Lapid’s people.
Finally, another takeaway from Nide’s JTA interview, to set us straight both about the ambassador and the news outlet: “Nides, who grew up in Minnesota as a liberal Reform Jew and went to synagogue only during the High Holidays, is a firm believer in equality at the Western Wall in Jerusalem,” writes JTA’s Jotam Confino. He quotes the ambassador who declares: “I have no tolerance for anyone being hurt or attacked for doing what they believe is their religious belief at the Western Wall. Both on the Orthodox and Reform sides, and for women and men. I think everyone should use this religious site for their own spirituality.”
Go to the interview and plug in the words “Temple Mount.” I did, looking to see if Nides feels similarly about the religious rights of Jews, 20 meters or so above the Kotel. Nothing. Nada. Gurnisht. Crickets.
Folks, we once had a friend in the US embassy. We no longer do.