By Morton A. Klein
(MARCH 8, 2023 / JNS) U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides has persisted in interfering in Israel’s internal affairs, egregiously violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Affairs, which requires diplomats to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state” and “not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.” While collaborating on foreign matters of mutual interest (such as working together to counter Iran) would be welcome, interfering in Israel’s internal affairs is off limits.
Yet Nides regularly makes hostile demands and exerts pressure that harms Israel’s security and sovereignty. He does so on issues like Israel’s right to control her own borders and determine security protocols, Jews’ lawful right to build homes and judicial reform.
Nides’ interference includes undiplomatic nastiness and defamation. Nides called Jews who legally build homes in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria “stupid” and “infuriating” (during a webinar with radical BDS group Peace Now). He recently undiplomatically called Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich “stupid” and said, “If I could, I would throw [Smotrich] off the plane.” Nides also brags that his unlawful pressure stopped the essential E-1 building project.
In contrast to his derogatory treatment of Jews and Israel, Nides fails to make lawful public demands on or pressure the Palestinian Authority to end its heinous “pay-to-slay” payments to terrorists who murder Jews, glorification of Jew-killers and building of tens of thousands of illegal structures on Israeli land (reportedly with U.S. assistance).
Israeli diplomats do not tell the United States how to select American judges or where persons of a particular faith can build homes in America. Israel does not pressure America to allow terrorist entities to decide who can enter the U.S. Nides and other U.S. officials should show the same legally required respect towards Israel.
After Nides criticized Israel’s judicial reforms—another clearly internal matter—Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli appropriately stated: “To Ambassador Nides I say this pure and simple: Mind your own business. You’re not privy to discussions about judicial reform. We’d love to discuss foreign affairs with you if you wish. Respect our democracy.”
Nides then absurdly doubled down, saying: “I really think that most Israelis do not want America to stay out of their business.”
Of course, Nides has no basis for his claim that Israelis want his illegal, “aggressive” (his own word), dangerous, persistent interference in Israel’s internal affairs. There are no Israeli polls showing that Israelis welcome Nides’ unlawful interference. I have not seen Israelis saying: “Oh, I just love it when Tom Nides interferes in our affairs and tells us what to do.” Moreover, Minister Chikli, who was elected by the Israeli people, surely knows what Israelis want far better than Nides does.
Indeed, no self-respecting U.S. ally wants U.S. inference in their internal affairs. For example, when Biden’s new Ambassador to Bahrain Steve Bondy met with NGOs opposed to sentences imposed by the Bahraini government, Bahrainis were outraged. The country’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani informed Bondy that Bondy’s meeting did “not conform to international laws and norms” and was not in accordance with diplomatic work regulations under the Vienna Convention.
Undoubtedly, Israelis are likewise outraged about Nides’s and other U.S. officials’ interference in Israeli’s internal affairs and undermining of Israel’s rights and security while Arab terrorists are attacking, injuring or murdering innocent Israelis every day.
Nides’s bullying, disparaging comments and discrimination against Israelis—especially against Jews who live in the Jewish homelands of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem—also conflicts with stated U.S. foreign policy on combating antisemitism overseas. The stated mission of the U.S. State Department Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism is to combat overseas antisemitism, which the mission statement defines as “discrimination, prejudice or hatred towards Jews.”
The impact of Nides’ bullying and disparaging statements about Jews and Israelis goes far beyond their impact on Israel’s and the Israeli people’s security and well-being. Nides’ actions and statements send a dangerous message that bullying, disparaging and discriminating against Jews is acceptable anywhere in the world.
Nides’s utter disrespect and constant aggressive meddling also sends a message to all other nations that it may not always be beneficial to be an ally of the United States.
In addition to the Vienna Convention’s requirements that diplomats respect host nations’ laws and not interfere with host nations’ internal affairs, the basic public policy of “comity of nations” requires nations to treat one another with respect.
Perhaps Rabbi Hillel said it best: “Do not do unto others what is hateful to you.” It’s time for Nides and the Biden administration to heed that golden rule and start treating Israel with the same respect and the same non-interference with which the U.S. wants foreign nations to treat the United States.
Morton Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States. The ZOA co-founded the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
This op-ed was originally published in JNS and can be viewed here.