Maintaining Israel as Jewish, Democratic State Is Goal of US Ambassador Thomas Nides
The Israel-Palestinian conflict is the other issue that consumes the US ambassador to Israel, he told reporters
“My North Star is very simply to maintain Israel as a democratic, Jewish state,” US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides told reporters on Wednesday. And, he said, it is “harder than I ever thought it would be to continue keeping that goal alive.”
Nides met with members of the Foreign Press Association at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Most of his address was off the record, but the US ambassador spoke on the record on several issues and he answered many questions, most revolving around the same topics he discussed during his on-the-record statement to the journalists.
The other issue that consumes Nides is the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Bridging the gap between Israel and the Palestinians is constantly on his mind, as well as making sure that all sides do “not do things that make it more difficult to achieve a two-state solution,” he said.
To that end, he says, the US has “been very clear on settlements growth and ending prisoner payments.”
Nides told reporters that he is not a career diplomat, since he spent only half of his career in government, where he served as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s number two at the State Department; Nides spent the other half of his career working on Wall Street.
He says his diverse background provides him with the “basis to be a good ambassador.” He’s been at the job for a little under a year, after he was confirmed to the post in November.
It’s critically important that the US support for Israel is an unbreakable tie
Nides emphasized the importance of the relationship between Israel and the United States.
“It’s critically important that the US support for Israel is an unbreakable tie, ” the ambassador asserted. He also underscored that US President Joe Biden has Israel’s “back, always has and always will.”
He said that was proven by the president’s visit to Israel in July, as well as the 10 other visits the president has made to Israel over the years.
“He has an emotional connection to Israel, and it came out in the most articulate way during his visit to Yad Vashem,” says Nides.
Nides also spoke about President Biden’s “vision” and his “support” for the two-state solution.
“Every single speech that I give, every single speech that (US Secretary of State) Tony Blinken gives, every single speech that Joe Biden gives, (Vice President) Kamala Harris gives is the idea of maintaining the vision of a two-state solution,” Nides said. President Biden “also did that with (Palestinian Authority) President (Mahmoud) Abbas in the West Bank: he talked about the ‘67 lines, he talked about land swaps; this is who Joe Biden is, he’s been talking about this for 40 years.”
Nides said that the Biden administration is consistent about its stance and is hard at work to try to push both sides toward a two-state solution.
“We need to be doing things for the Palestinian people at the same time, you can’t lose the street,” he added.
The things Nides is talking about are almost entirely linked to improving the Palestinian economic conditions and supporting certain Palestinian institutions, while Washington figures out a way to revive the stalled peace process.
“It means the east Jerusalem hospital network; Joe Biden went there not to make a political statement, but to say this is about the Palestinian people,” he said.
Nides also singled out the situation at Allenby Bridge on the border with Jordan, the only access the Palestinians have to the outside world, insisting that the US is committed to opening the bridge around the clock.
Another issue that would contribute to quality of life in the Palestinian territories is bringing 4G broadband cellular network technology to the area.
“The Israelis committed to us personally that they will provide those in the West Bank 4G, I’m working every day to get it together,” Nides said.
He said he is in close contact with Israeli businesspeople to open more business operations and physical plants in the West Bank and hire more people.
Nides compared the Biden administration’s commitment to improving the Palestinian economy to that of its predecessor.
The United States, since last year, has provided half a billion dollars to the Palestinian people through all U.S. assistance, according to the ambassador. USAID funding alone will total over $500 million between 2021-2024, for assistance to sectors including education and health care, he said.
Nides also discussed the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements between Israel and some Arab and Muslim countries, signed under former US President Donald Trump, noting that the current administration strongly supports the agreements, and is committed to expanding them.
“The Abraham Accords have been of enormous importance to Israel and the region. It made (the countries) feel secure, but not everyone benefitted equally,” Nides said,
On Iran, the ambassador made it clear that the White House has the “desire” to have a diplomatic solution to this conflict and would like to extend the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but “under the terms the Biden administration laid out. The president has articulated many times that we will not stand by to let the Iranians obtain a nuclear weapon.”
The US president has assured Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid that “we will not tie Israel’s hand to defend itself against Iranian aggression,” Nides said.