Recent hostilities between Hamas and Israel brought new scrutiny on the Biden administration and its ability to bring about peace in the region.
Specifically, one expert says that President Joe Biden’s decision not to nominate a U.S. ambassador to Israel shows he is not all that interested in a robust and long-lasting peace deal.
“Stuck at a working level”
Brett Bruen, who served on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, made his recent remarks in a statement to the Washington Examiner, effectively accused the current U.S. administration of dropping the ball in supporting U.S.-Israel relations.
Having an ambassador in place “would have made an enormous difference” in response to the Palestinian-Israeli violence earlier this month.
“They have the relationships with top Israeli leaders and can extract better insights, as well as enjoy far more influence when delivering hard messages,” Bruen said. “We also don’t have someone who can do major interviews and get the United States’ policy prominently out in the press.”
Instead, he argued that “engagements on the ground get stuck at a working level, which isn’t where the decisions are being made.”
It reportedly took nearly a week for Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr to contact Israeli leaders. For his part, Biden maintained a disjointed position, stating on one hand that Israel has the right to defend itself and pushing for a cease-fire on the other.
“The only thing they may have in common”
Ofer Zalzberg, the Jerusalem-based director of the Middle East Program at the Herbert Kelman Institute, echoed Bruen’s concerns, insisting that the vacant ambassador position “mostly nourished the perception that the Biden administration excessively downplayed the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Sources indicate Biden had someone in mind for the role, but the name sparked some internal conflict within his administration.
While the president is considering former State Department official Thomas Nides, a growing White House campaign has shown increased support for Robert Wexler.
The latest reports suggest that Wexler, a former Democratic U.S. congressman from Florida, will not be named to the post. Nevertheless, the prospect received approval from both sides of the aisle, even among progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), despite his pro-Israel stance.
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, who leads the Ohr Torah Stone network, described Wexler as strongly committed to peace and well aware of the nuances of U.S.-Israel relations, according to the Examiner, adding: “Everybody that I’ve met on both sides, both Jewish and in the Palestinian community, the only thing they may have in common is the fact that they have trust in Robert Wexler.”