Appointment of Mitchell aide means more trouble for Israel

Mara Rudman will be appointed chief of staff to the team that is being assembled by Special Envoy George Mitchell to tackle one of Barack Obama's most ambitious goals, the creation of a Palestinian state, according to the Boston Globe:

[H]er new post will give her a platform to help tackle major policy questions, such as how to persuade Israel to restrain its building of settlements, whether to try to engage Hamas, and whether Obama should outline his own vision of a just solution to the conflict as a way to spur progress.

Rudman is a longtime figure on the "progressive left", according to the Globe. She can be an exacting negotiator. Her interest in the Middle East, at least academically, seemed to have begun at Dartmouth, where "she took a seminar with Ian Lustick, a former State Department official who was studying how Israeli settlements might prevent the creation of a Palestinian state".

Lustick comments:

 Mara was the first student to get what I was doing," said Lustick, who served as an informal adviser to President George H. W. Bush when the White House held up $10 billion in US loan guarantees pending Israeli assurances that the money would not fund settlements.

More insights from the Globe article:

In 1986, Rudman traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories for the first time, writing a research paper on civil rights lawyers who were fighting deportations and detentions of Palestinian activists. Most of the Israelis she met were more worried about the price of tomatoes than the treatment of Palestinians, whose frustration was about to explode into the first intifada, Rudman wrote in the Harvard Human Rights Yearbook in 1988.

Rudman graduated from Harvard Law School in 1990, and went on to work for two Washington powerhouses: Hamilton, then chairman of the House International Affairs Committee and Sandy Berger, at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, who later brought her to serve as executive secretary at the National Security Council under Clinton.

She played a minor role in Clinton's Mideast efforts, planning a package of US economic and military support that Israelis would need to sell a peace plan to their own public. The collapse of Clinton's peace accord gave Rudman "a sense both of how difficult this is, but also the determination to try to achieve progress," Berger said.

During the Bush administration, Rudman worked for the Cohen Group, which was hired by the Israel Policy Forum to build support in the United States for a two-state solution. In 2007, she helped launched the Middle East Bulletin, a newsletter at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank, that published writings by Mitchell.

She apparently (and predictably) has elicited concerns from both the left and the right. Some on the left feel that she will shun Hamas and focus on working with Fatah; others on the right feel that she will focus on stopping Israeli settlement activity and place fewer demands on the Palestinians. Time will tell.

I think it should be noted that her career in dealing in the Middle East seems to have taken a left turn early in her career, her interest having been sparked by a man who worked towards halting loan guarantees to Israel as a tool to be used to coerce compliance with American demands. She worked for the Cohen Group which was hired by the leftist Israel Policy Forum to generate support in America for a two-state solution.  The Israel Policy Forum is a leftist, appeasement-oriented group that has frequently called for American pressure on Israel.

In 2007 she helped launch the Middle East Bulletin, a project for the Center for American Progress - a group that was formed and is heavily dependent on the billionaire anti-Israel activist George Soros. The CAP has provided people to fill many positions within this administration. Now there is another CAPer to join their ranks.

The Middle East Bulletin is a news service that seeks not just to emulate the Daily Alert (a news service created by the Conference of the Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations), but provide an alternative to that news service which some on the left have criticized as being too supportive of Israel. The Middle East Bulletin, which I subscribe to, does present views from the left-end of the political spectrum, and often features critics of Israeli policy.

Is it a bit revealing that the Globe could find people like M.J. Rosenberg and Robert Malley (two frequent critics of Israel) as well as Lustick to offer up support for Rudman?

A couple of further insights can be gleaned from the article. Robert Malley had this to say about Rudman's experience:

The lesson that Rudman seemed to take away was that the "US had to be more assertive about its own interests, and not be pushed around by either side."

This is the new meme or mantra from the left. This type of slogan (that the establishment of a Palestinian state is a "vital  American" or in the "national interest" of America) has risen to the forefront in discussions about Middle East policy. I have lost track how many times figures in this administration, and influential columnists, have used this term or some variation to describe the importance of establishing a Palestinian state.  It is a rhetorical tool to put pressure on Israel whose resistance to the founding of yet another terror state on its borders can be characterized as serving to block the accomplishment of American national interest.

Yet, preventing the development of nuclear weapons by Iran has not been accorded anywhere near the same level of importance. Barack Obama seems to want to emulate Harry Truman (or Moses, for that matter) and be the man who brings  forth a Palestinian state. But, unarguably, an Iranian bomb will be a geopolitical danger not just for the region but for the entire world, and would most likely spark a nuclear arms race in one of the most unstable regions of the world.

One more quick factoid to note; she is one more Hamiltonian to join the administration post. The populating of the foreign policy apparatus by former Congressman  Lee Hamilton acolytes continues apace. I have written about this dynamic before  (probable new National Intelligence Council chairman); others have recently noted the ascent of Hamiltonians to other key foreign policy positions).

Prediction: should Hillary Clinton realize that she has been sidelined as Secretary of State and has very little power, she may choose to resign to run again for the Senate seat she gave up to join Obama's cabinet. Lee Hamilton might very well be tapped by Barack Obama to become the new Secretary of State. President Obama relies on his advice to a great extent, according to the highly regarded foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post (Ignatius: "If you ask White House officials whom President Obama listens to about Iran, they mention an interesting name -- Lee Hamilton, the former congressman from Indiana who co-chaired the 2006 Iraq Study Group that urged engagement with the Iranian regime.").
What?  Not the Secretary of State Hillary "William Rogers" Clinton?)