NEW YORK – In response to media reports that the U.S. ambassador to Israel publicly appealed to Israelis to “pressure” their government and the Knesset to offer more concessions to the Arabs (Reuters, Jan. 23, 2002), the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged the Bush administration to affirm that such appeals are inappropriate interference in the affairs of a sovereign foreign government.
The Jerusalem Post (Jan.24, 2002) quoted a “senior diplomatic official in Jerusalem” who said these comments were “way out of line.” The Post added: “The official said it is blatant interference in domestic politics to call for protest action against Sharon, who won the elections last year with a 65 percent majority, and now enjoys a 70% popularity rate. Furthermore, the official said, Kurtzer seemed to be expressing his own ideological views, since the messages Israel is receiving from Washington are strongly supportive of the government’s position.”
The Post noted that Knesset Member Eliezer Zandberg, of the secularist Shinui Party, “said Kurtzer’s comment was the equivalent of Israel calling on the American people to pressure U.S.President George W. Bush to reach a compromise with the Taliban. ‘Instead of trying to get the Israeli people to revolt against their government, Kurtzer would be better off calling on the Palestinian people to overthrow Arafat, who is an obstacle to peace.’”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said:
“We hope that the report is not true. It would be helpful if the Bush administration would publicly affirm that it is inappropriate for an American diplomat to urge Israeli citizens to pressure their government to change its policies.
“It is especially troubling to hear of such a statement by a U.S. official on a day when Israel is burying the victims of the latest Palestinian Arab terrorist attack, nursing the dozens who were wounded, and enduring new missile strikes from Hezbollah.”