'Anti-Israeli': U.S. Move Against ex-Palestinian Premier Baffles Veteran American Officials

Former senior Obama and Bush officials say Trump administration's bid to shoot down ex-Palestinian premier's UN nomination is ignorant and even contrary to Israeli interests.

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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A 2012 photo of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and then-President Shimon Peres.
A 2012 photo of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and then-President Shimon Peres.Credit: AP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

Former American officials who served under both Obama and Bush criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for blocking the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the head of the UN’s mission in Libya, calling the move ignorant, counter-productive and even anti-Israeli.

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Robert Danin, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and a member of George W. Bush's National Security Council tweeted a picture of President Bush with Fayyad in the Oval Office and tagged Trump's UN ambassador, Nikki Hailey. "@NikkiHaley: President Bush and the man you just threw under the bus,” the tweet read.

In a second tweet, Danin attached a photo of Fayyad and former President Shimon Peres, writing, “@NikkiHaley: This is the Palestinian patriot you just attacked.”

>> Read more: Even Israel's ambassador to U.S. praised former Palestinian PM Fayyad blocked by Trump >>

Fayyad, who holds a PhD in economics from the University of Texas, was a favorite of the Bush administration and particularly well-liked by the Texan president. In another tweet, Danin said that the decision to block Fayyad’s appointment was “simply shocking, as the past two American presidents and three Israeli prime ministers would acknowledge."

Martin Indyk, a former envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a two-time ambassador to Israel who served under the Obama and the Clinton administrations said that Fayyad was a Palestinian partner for Israel and added that heading the mission to Libya “has nothing to do with Israel.”

Indyk said blocking Fayyad was anti-Israeli and linked it to Trump’s last-minute decision not to appoint Elliott Abrams, a veteran of the Bush and the Ronald Reagan administrations, to the second highest post at the State Department. Trump decided to keep Abrams out of his administration after he discovered that the latter criticized him during the campaign.

"Blocking Salam Fayyad and Elliott Abrams in one day are two of the most ANTI-Israel decisions Trump could take. Crazy!" Indyk’s tweet said.

Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser and UN ambassador didn’t mince words either. "Are all Palestinians precluded from serving the UN?,” she wrote in a tweet. “This statement is ignorant, offensive, counterproductive," she added and posted a link to Haley's official statement on the vote. Rice called Fayyad "first rate" and added that the UN "would be lucky to have him in Libya or anywhere else."

Former ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, also weighed in, replying to a tweet that termed the U.S. move as "stunning." "Stunningly dumb," he tweeted laconically.

Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy also came out against the vote, tweeting: "who benefits from nixing Fayyad from prominent UN job? Pro-corruption, anti-peace group in Palestinian Authority, who saw him as public enemy."

Satloff hinted that Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon may have lobbied the U.S. to vote as it did and wrote that, "with real threats to face, seems silly of Israel to use chit to ask Trump admin to block UN appointment of pro-peace ex-Palestine PM Fayyad."

An interesting reaction from the right-wing came from Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, usually a harsh critic of the Palestinian Authority, who tweeted: "Even I like Fayyad." Vivian Bercovici, Canada's former ambassador to Israel who was appointed by the Conservative former prime minister, Stephen Harper, replied that "Most thoughtful people do. This is an odd move by Nikki Haley. Does she know anything about him?"

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