By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
The former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, has called on Israel’s leaders “to stay out of America’s politics” — just hours after he urged the United States to interfere in Israel’s politics, something he himself has been doing for years.
The latest events began with the invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. The New York Times quickly sought a comment from Indyk, who is constantly quoted by the news media since the conclusion of his singularly unsuccessful term as the Obama administration’s chief envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
“Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign,” said Indyk, who apparently finds it inconceivable that the prime minister of Israel might want to speak to Congress about using Congressional sanctions to prevent Iran from nuking Israel. “And the Republicans are using Bibi for their campaign against Obama…It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours.”
That line about both sides staying out of the other’s business sounds reasonable and evenhanded. Until you realize that before he spoke to the Times, Indyk let loose his real feelings via Twitter: “Why should Netanyahu be able to speak and Herzog not,” he angrily tweeted, referring to Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. “If Boehner is placing Congress into the midst of the Israeli elections, why don’t the Democrats invite Herzog too?”
The answer to Indyk’s petulant question is that Netanyahu is the prime minister. Israel’s prime minister is invited to speak in other countries, and the leader of the opposition is not, just as no Republican leader is invited to speak when President Obama is invited to deliver an address in another country.
Note, by the way, that Indyk served as ambassador in Israel in 1995, when Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister, and 2000, when Ehud Barak was prime minister. We don’t recall him ever demanding that Netanyahu, who was then the opposition leader, be invited along when Rabin or Barak came to the United States. For some reason, Indyk’s demand for “fairness” and “balance” applies only when it benefits the Israeli Labor Party.
The irony is that if there is one person in the diplomatic world who is well known for interfering in Israel’s politics, it’s Martin Indyk.
— Knesset Members David Levy and Aryeh Deri revealed on July 26, 1995 that Ambassador Indyk personally lobbied them, and other MKs, to oppose a Knesset bill that would have made it harder for Israel to give the Golan Heights to Syria. (Agence France Presse, July 26, 1995)
— Israel Television reported on December 18, 1996, that Ambassador Indyk visited former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party, and asked Yosef to order Interior Minister Eli Suissa (a Shas representative) to block a housing project in a part of Jerusalem that was beyond the 1967 line.
— The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Uzi Landau, revealed in March 1997 that Ambassador Indyk had been “pressuring members of the government” and “interfering in Israel’s internal political affairs.” (Haaretz, March 16, 1997)
— The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported on July 8, 1997, that Ambassador Indyk “took part in the effort” to block Prime Minister Netanyahu’s choice for finance minister.
It’s worth recalling that when Indyk was nominated, in 1997, to serve as Assistant Secretary of State, The New Republic opposed the nomination–on the grounds that as ambassador in Israel, Indyk “distinguished himself by exhorting [President Clinton] to campaign for [Labor Party leader] Shimon Peres” in the 1996 Israeli elections. (Editorial, August 11-18, 1997)
That’s right, the same Indyk who tweeted about inviting the head of Israel’s Labor Party to address Congress, and then turned around a few hours later and piously told the New York Times that neither side should interfere in the other’s politics–he himself sought American presidential intervention to help a previous Labor Party leader in an Israeli election.
Hypocrisy? Two-facedness? Political bias? Sure, all of those terms describe Martin Indyk. But most of all, his behavior appears to be guided by a desperate hope that nobody will bother to take a look at his own record.
(The authors are president and chairman, respectively, of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia, and candidates on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.)