Prior diplomatic selections may inform controversial Netanyahu choices for New York posting

“He might as well appoint who he sees fit,” said Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, of the vacant consul general role the Israeli prime minister aims to fill.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: Twitter.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: Twitter.

The backlash against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pending appointment of a brash, right-wing minister to a sensitive New York ambassadorial posting was, with limited exceptions, swift and decisive.

In the face of criticism about Likud lawmaker May Golan’s past rhetoric on African migrants—who she and others say made life dangerous in her South Tel Aviv neighborhood—Netanyahu reportedly retracted his offer for Golan to fill the vacant consul general role in the Big Apple.

Yet the premier is now reportedly considering another unconventional and right-wing candidate: American-born journalist Caroline Glick, who has been unsparing in her criticism of the Biden administration, and consistently critical of the dangers that progressivism, especially inside the U.S. Jewish establishment, brings to bear on Israel and American Jewish life. (Glick is a senior JNS contributing editor and host of “The Caroline Glick Show” on JNS.)

The candidates Netanyahu has reportedly considered wade into a debate about what sort of messenger a conservative Israeli government ought to send to New York, where it is often at odds ideologically with the city’s more liberal Jewish base. More broadly, how much significance should the public attach to the role and its occupant?

ZOA president Mort Klein speaking at the annual gala on Dec. 22, 2021. Source: Screenshot.

“The Israeli people picked a strong, center-right government to represent it after seeing for years that left-wing policies have been a disaster,” Morton Klein, national president of the  Zionist Organization of America, told JNS. “The consul general should be somebody who reflects the views of the Israeli public, not the American public—of the Israeli voter, not the American and Jewish positions.”

“I think Caroline would be an outstanding appointment. She is arguably the greatest pro-Israel journalist in the world and extremely knowledgeable concerning the Arab-Israel situation,” he said. “She’s articulate, persuasive and understands the nuances of the issues of the Arab-Islamic war against Israel.”

‘The capital of Blue America and of Blue Jewry’

Zionist activist and political commentator Gil Troy told JNS that the Netanyahu government’s recent diplomatic maneuvers are a thinly veiled thumb in the eye of U.S. Jewry after a years-long, contentious relationship. Netanyahu is signaling that he sees greater value building relationships with the American political right and evangelical Christians than with the U.S. Jewish base.

Troy noted that both actress Noa Tishby, who was an unpaid Israeli antisemitism envoy prior to her recent ouster, and Asaf Zamir, who resigned as consul general in March, had publicly voiced opposition to Israeli judicial reform.

“The last government appointed Noa Tishby, a successful Hollywood powerhouse, who wrote a book filled with pride about Israel, and who both culturally speaks to the bulk of American Jewry and pushed back very effectively against our enemies,” he said.

“This government fires her, and then when the consul general of New York job opens, he considered sending to New York—the capital of Blue America and of Blue Jewry—a politico with a long history of statements that offend most American Jews,” he added.

Netanyahu reportedly pushed initially to send Golan to New York to free up a ministerial role domestically, which is a tactic he has employed before. He did so notably when he appointed Likud rival Danny Danon as Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. In Turtle Bay, Danon surpassed the expectations of most analysts and, ironically, after returning to Israel as a Likud lawmaker, is now pushing Netanyahu to make him a minister, which set the ball in motion with Golan.

Prior to his U.N. appointment, Danon had built a reputation as a right-wing firebrand rather than as a practitioner of diplomacy.

Professor Gil Troy at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Photo by Hanna Taieb.

‘It’s hard not to be frustrated’

Netanyahu is drawing on lessons learned in proposing right-wing names for the open position in New York, according to Klein. He wanted to appoint confidante Dore Gold as ambassador to Washington in 2009 but “was afraid Gold would be perceived as too right of center,” he added. Instead, the prime minister selected American-born academic Michael Oren, whom Klein calls left-wing. (Some experts would disagree.)

“My friends in Israel told me when Netanyahu first became prime minister, it was better to be a Labor (Party) guy in order to get a job than a Likud guy because Bibi wanted to soften his image,” Klein told JNS. “He quickly learned that even though he’s appointing people like Michael Oren and others from the left of center, that will not change American Jewish opinion.”

“It had no impact on the American government or media being friendlier to Israel. He might as well appoint who he sees fit,” he said.

Troy counters that for Netanyahu, it’s not about sending those he thinks are appropriate choices to America, even if they rankle feathers. He sometimes chooses simply out of domestic political expediency, blinding him to the potential consequences overseas.

“It’s hard not to read some message there—not just for organized American Jewry, but for most American Jews,” said Troy. “And it’s hard not to be frustrated that the extremists in Israel, left and right—in this case right—are so busy fighting internal political battles they forgot who our real enemies are.”

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