The U.S. Senate is facing a decision about whether to approve or reject the nomination of Colin Kahl for undersecretary of defense. Kahl was a leading voice against the move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
He inaccurately believed that it would lead to a violent blowup across the Middle East, when, in fact, it eventually led to the Abraham Accords.
He was also a major advocate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran—during his service in the administration of former President Barack Obama. He mistakenly believed that the JCPOA would not only curtail Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons but also moderate its behavior.
The trove of documents the Israeli Mossad seized from a warehouse in Tehran in 2018 showed conclusively that Iran was in violation of the JCPOA; that it was still pursuing nuclear weapons; and that the lifting of U.S. sanctions had enabled it to expand its global terrorism.
It is therefore not surprising that many senators are wondering why Kahl should be given an upgraded position in the Biden administration.
The late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) once asked why television networks were using the same analysts to comment on the Second Gulf War who had been so wrong in their analyses of the First Gulf War. This is what the Obama administration did in 2013 when then-Secretary of State John Kerry named Martin Indyk as a special envoy for Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
At the time, when presented with Indyk’s previous failures in Mideast diplomacy, the administration argued that he was a good choice precisely because he knew what didn’t work. It was a false argument because Indyk had not changed his fundamental views that previously led to those failures. Nor was it surprising, therefore, when Middle East talks ended in disaster, and Indyk resigned in 2014.
Unfortunately, many so-called “Middle East experts” have been consistently wrong, repeating failed policies. Some have admitted their mistakes. Yet, even those analysts have not fundamentally changed their views of the conflict to this day.
Take Dennis Ross, for example. The special Mideast coordinator under former President Bill Clinton met with PLO chief Yasser Arafat more than any other administration official. Ross thought that Arafat wanted to make peace with Israel. But his diplomacy efforts were in vain, as they culminated in Arafat’s launching of the Second Intifada, a suicide terror war against Israeli civilians that resulted in mass casualties.
Ross subsequently wrote that Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, was a man of peace, downplaying or outright ignoring the Palestinian Authority leader’s anti-Semitic and terrorist past. For example, Ross claimed that Abbas did not finance the massacre of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, despite detailed documentation in the book Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich, written by massacre mastermind Abu Daoud.
In the book, Abu Daoud spells out Abbas’s involvement in financing the notorious terrorist attack. The author even recounts that Abbas kissed him and wished him success ahead of the mission.
In addition, After Abu Daoud’s death in 2010, Abbas lauded him as a hero. Ross also falsely claimed that Abbas was no longer a Holocaust denier, stating that the P.A. leader had changed his view since his days as a doctoral student whose thesis rejected the fact that 6 million Jews were slaughtered in World War II.
But, during his opening comments to the Palestinian National Council in May 2018, Abbas made it clear that he still denies the genocide of the Jews and blames the Jews for the Holocaust.
Nevertheless, Ross continuously advocated for Israel to make concessions to the virulently anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying Abbas in the false expectation that peace could result from such a policy. Unsurprisingly, he was wrong.
More recently, former Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller wrote that he had been wrong in his analysis that the Oslo Accords would bring peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Subsequently, he also acknowledged that he had been mistaken for trying to get Israel to cede the Golan Heights to Syria.
Unfortunately, Miller, Ross and Indyk all opposed the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Ross had helped lead the fight for the Clinton administration against the original massive bipartisan passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 in a 93-5 vote. Now Kahl, who vociferously opposed the move, is being considered for a sensitive, high-level post in the U.S. Defense Department.
Just as Indyk, Ross and Miller have not changed their failed thinking, Kahl maintains his previous views of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the wider Middle East. In light of the Abraham Accords between Israel and Gulf states, brokered by former President Donald Trump, appointing such a person, who shared Kerry’s now-laughable stance that there would be no separate peace between Israel and other Arab countries until the Palestinians established an independent state, makes no sense.
The Senate should reject his appointment.
Farley Weiss, former president of the National Council of Young Israel, is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s, and not necessarily representative of NCYI.