John Bolton has proved to be the right man for the job. As UN ambassador, Bolton has clearly and consistently projected the White House’s Middle East policies, especially the administration’s unwavering support for Israel.
As international criticism of Israel mounts, President Bush has asked Congress to approve his renomination of Bolton—a longtime State Department diplomat who has over three decades sought to debilitate the United Nations and who has earned a reputation as a defender of an aggressive Israel. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) calls Bolton “one of Israel’s truest friends in the world.”
Last summer the Senate rejected the nomination of Bolton, a right-wing ideologue fiercely opposed to all international laws and institutions that constrain U.S. power. Overriding congressional concerns that Bolton would be an ineffective UN ambassador because of his long history of criticizing the United Nations, Bush appointed Bolton to the post during the August 2005 congressional recess.
A year into his term, which expires in January 2007, Bolton has energized his supporters, won over some critics, and pleased the president with his own brand of cowboy diplomacy. With congressional support running high for Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, the White House has resubmitted Bolton’s nomination.
Bolton received strong support from major Jewish organizations during last year’s confirmation hearings, and these same organizations are gearing up to mount a strong pro-Bolton lobbying campaign this time around. Among the Jewish groups that supported Bolton during the first hearings were the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), B’nai B’rith International, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).
In midst of the confirmation fight, Tom Casey, director of the State Department’s press office, said: “I don’t think you’ll find anyone in this administration who is a stronger friend of Israel.” Weighing in on the Bolton nomination, an AIPAC spokesperson noted that “John Bolton has stood for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Since he began his government career as a Reagan administration official in the early 1980s, Bolton has been an outspoken, dedicated proponent of close U.S.-Israel ties. During the George H.W. Bush administration (1989-93), Bolton earned hero status among pro-Israel groups and the Jewish community in general for masterminding the State Department’s successful effort to repeal UN resolution 3379 (passed in 1975), which stated that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”
Bolton himself does not publicly define himself as a Zionist. However, he has closely associated himself with both Christian and Jewish Zionists. Bolton worked closely with Senator Jesse Helms, a fundamentalist with Christian Zionist convictions. In early 2001 Helms told a gathering at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI): “John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in the world.”
Bolton is a longtime member of the advisory board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which has offices in Washington and Jerusalem. JINSA describes itself as “the most influential group on the issue of U.S.-Israel military relations.” With an overarching focus on “U.S.-Israeli strategic cooperation,” JINSA says it “communicates with the Jewish Community and the national security establishment on behalf of the role Israel can and does play in bolstering American interests, as well as the link between American defense policy and the security of Israel.”(1)
JINSA called President Bush a “courageous leader” for having appointed “a courageous man” to represent the United States at the United Nations. Congratulating the president for his bold move in sending Bolton to the UN despite congressional opposition, JINSA executive director Tom Neumann said: “John Bolton is a strong advocate of America and a strong supporter of Israel. With the consistent effort to undermine American and Israeli security in the UN, I feel confident that a proven diplomat like John Bolton will be representing our interests in the UN.” (2)
Bolton’s institutional affiliations extend to an array of right-wing and pro-Israel policy institutes and think tanks, including the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), American Enterprise Institute, Manhattan Institute, National Policy Forum, and Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf. Bolton served on PNAC’s board of directors in the late 1990s, and signed numerous of its public statements and letters, including its 1997 founding statement of principles. Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Bolton was senior vice president for policy at AEI, a neoconservative think tank that has since the 1970s been a leading proponent in Washington of right-wing Zionist positions.(3) Bolton has also been a longtime activist with the right-wing Federalist Society.
Defender of Israel Award
During his first confirmation hearings, Bolton’s record as undersecretary of state for arms control came under fire. According to news reports, including the highly respected Jewish magazine Forward, Bolton took part in unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials, including Israeli intelligence agents. He met with officials of the Mossad intelligence agency without first seeking “country clearance” from the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. In its May 6, 2005 article on Bolton’s practice of manipulating intelligence and violating government protocol, Forward also noted that Bolton is “known as a strong supporter of Israel’s position that Tehran is coming alarmingly close to being able to weaponize its nuclear material.”(4)
U.S. News reported that in his position as the government’s top arms control official Bolton shelved a memo suggesting that Israel had violated U.S. laws against using U.S. arms for “nondefensive” purposes when it used U.S.-supplied weapons to assassinate Salah Shehada, a top Hamas activist in Gaza City, on July 23, 2000. Israel’s air force used a U.S.-made F-16 bomber to drop a one-ton bomb on a house in the densely populated part of Gaza where the Hamas leader was staying. Fourteen civilians died along with Shehada, and more than 100 Palestinians were injured. Senate staffers investigating Bolton found that Bolton prevented a State Department memo accusing Israel of violating U.S. arms-export laws from reaching the desk of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. (5)
December 2005 the Zionist Organization of America honored Bolton with its annual Defender of Israel Award. Presenting the award, ZOA president Morton Klein said: “The ZOA praises and strongly supports the heroic efforts of Ambassador Bolton to bring about fair treatment of Israel and decent conduct within the United Nations.” Referring to his recent work as UN ambassador on behalf of Israel, Klein noted that Bolton’s “efforts to have Hezbollah condemned at last for its vicious terrorist assaults on Israel, without the usual ‘balancing’ criticism of Israel for legitimately striking back at Hezbollah, is a major achievement and speaks volumes for his commitment to justice, the war on Islamic terrorism, and fair dealing for Israel and the world.” (6)
Speaking at the ZOA annual banquet, Bolton said a “deep-seated anti-Israel feeling” pervades the United Nations. Greeted with wild applause, Bolton reminded the audience that despite the repeal of the Zionism is racism resolution, “Anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic feelings still persist at the United Nations.”
Over the past year Bolton has led the administration’s rhetorical attack on Iran. In a March 8, 2006 speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Bolton threatened Iran with “painful consequences” if it didn’t accede to Washington’s demands that it shut down all its nuclear programs.
In early July Bolton spearheaded opposition to the proposed Security Council resolution that would have called for Israel to end its attacks and its “disproportionate use of force” in the Gaza Strip. The blocked resolution would have also called for the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier. The resolution received ten votes, with four abstentions and with Bolton casting the lone opposition vote. In October 2004, Bolton also wielded the U.S. veto to block a similar draft calling for Israel to end all military operations in northern Gaza.
On July 15 Bolton also blocked Security Council consideration of a ceasefire resolution in the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. In an interview with Fox News, Bolton commented on the U.S. position backing Israel in the expanding war. “What our job is in New York is to make sure that that right of self-defense is not abridged arbitrarily,” said Bolton. “But also, to try and do what we can to help the Lebanese government, which was elected democratically, and to see if we can help remove the cancer [referring to the Hezbollah guerrillas].” (7)
Like the White House, Bolton characterizes Israel’s campaigns in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon as part of the global war on terrorism. Rejecting the rising calls for a ceasefire and rejecting criticism of Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, Bolton said that there is “no moral equivalence” between Lebanese civilian casualties of Israeli bombing and Israelis killed by “malicious terrorist acts.”
Republicans Will Stand Behind Bolton, Using War as a Cover
The White House announced this week that it would seek an early confirmation of Bolton. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said there was a desire to move to a Senate vote because “people have seen the fruits of John Bolton’s labor at the United Nations,” and said he was “doing a tremendous job.”
Citizens for Global Solutions, a group that mounted a national campaign to derail the Bolton nomination in 2005, strongly opposes Bolton’s renomination, stating that Bolton “will not only fail to restore the legacy of our nation’s 60-year relationship with the UN but will undermine it further.” The nongovernmental organization points to a recent Washington Post op-ed by Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) as a clear sign that the administration is preparing a partisan drive to confirm Bolton. “Partisanship will trump the need for a substantive policy discussion,” the group predicted.
Senator Voinovich proved a key figure in turning back the nomination the first time around. But in his Washington Post op-ed, Voinovich wrote that he was impressed by how Bolton, whom he had previously accused of “go it alone” tendencies, has frequently invoked “my instructions” from Washington in his role as the country’s representative to the UN.
Preparing the ground for what the administration hopes will be a quick confirmation hearing, Senator Voinovich said, “I cannot imagine a worse message to send to the terrorists—and to other nations deciding whether to engage in this effort—than to drag out a possible renomination process or even replace the person our president has entrusted to lead our nation at the United Nations at a time when we are working on these historic objectives.”
“I do not believe the United States, at this dangerous time, can afford to have a UN ambassador who does not have Congress’s full support,” concluded Voinovich. (8)
Bolton certainly can count on deep support from the pro-Israel Jewish organizations. Jay Zeidman, the White House liaison to the Jewish community, is mobilizing Jewish support in the upcoming drive to push Bolton’s confirmation through the Senate. Working out of the White House’s Office of Public Liaison, Zeidman has put out a call for Jewish support for the Bolton renomination. The 24-year old Zeidman is the son of Fred Zeidman, who serves on JINSA’s board of directors and is vice-chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition. (9)
Echoing the arguments of the White House and Senator Voinovich, Jewish leaders are quickly lining up behind Bolton. “Given the fact that we face a world today where every decision every day seems to count, we cannot allow any disruption in who plays the lead role in representing the United States,” the chairman of the American Jewish Congress, Jack Rosen, said. “This is not a time for a void. It is not a time to take away someone who’s represented us well at the United Nations, putting aside for the moment any squabbles or disagreements with the administration.” (10)
Citizens for Global Solutions and other opponents of the Bolton renomination, including Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee, are turning the pro-Bolton arguments on their head. They warn, as Voinovich did in his Washington Post op-ed, that in these dangerous times the United States cannot afford to have a UN ambassador that does not have full congressional support—which Bolton certainly doesn’t have.
Tom Barry is policy director of the International Relations Center, online at www.irc-online.org.
“Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs,” Right Web Profile, International Relations Center, http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/1508.
“JINSA Congratulates the President,” JINSA, July 31, 2005,http://www.jinsa.org/articles/articles.html/function/view/categoryid/963/documentid/3090/history/3,2359,2167,963,3090.
“John Bolton,” Right Web Profile, International Relations Center, http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/972.
“Senate Probes Bolton’s Pro-Israel Efforts,” Forward, May 6, 2005, http://www.forward.com/articles/3133.
“Foggy Bottom’s Case of the Missing Memo,” U.S. News & World Report, May 9, 2005,http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/050509/9whitehouse.htm.http://www.zoa.org/2005/12/zoa_praises_us_1.htm http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,204904,00.html
Sen. George Voinovich, “Why I’ll Vote for Bolton,” Washington Post, July 20, 2006,http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/19/AR2006071901788.html.
Steve Clemmons, “White House Calls for Jewish Groups to Line Up Behind John Bolton,” The Washington Note, July 21, 2006, http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/.
Russell Berman, “Schumer and Clinton Pressed to Reappoint Bolton,” New York Sun, July 26, 2006,http://oasis.nysun.com/oasis/oasisc.php? s=49&c=32.
Tom Barry, IRC | July 26, 2006
International Relations Center www.irc-online.org