JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Monday named a longtime confidant who is hawkish on Iran and the Palestinian issue to run the foreign ministry, the latest in a series of moves that consolidate Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative grip on his new government.
The new ministry director, Dore Gold, is a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and a prolific author. He is a ubiquitous promoter of Mr. Netanyahu’s policies on international television who has warned against concessions to the Palestinians given the raging chaos in the Middle East. And his research group, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, staunchly opposes Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank or any division of Jerusalem, which the Palestinians plan as capital of their future state.
Mr. Gold said in an interview that he did not oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state — unlike the new, far-right deputy foreign minister, who advocates Israeli annexation of the West Bank. But Mr. Gold sees most of the Palestinians’ conditions as impossible to balance with Israel’s security.
“We have to have defensible borders,” he said. “We have to have arrangements that take into account the changes that are occurring around Israel.” He emphasized the rise of the Islamic State and other extremist groups.
Mr. Netanyahu has retained the title of foreign minister for himself, along with that of communications minister, signaling his intent to personally control Israel’s media marketplace as well as its diplomatic initiatives. His recent ouster of the communications ministry director raised ire in Israel. And some opposition politicians also expressed concern that in appointing Mr. Gold, Mr. Netanyahu had dismissed a nearly 50-year veteran of the foreign ministry who recently warned that Israel “could pay a heavy price” for the crisis in its relations with Washington.
“Netanyahu, as usual, kills the messenger instead of dealing with the message,” Tzipi Livni, a member of Parliament from the center-left Zionist Union party, wrote in a Facebook post. “These moves sharpen the fact that we are talking about a government that has to be replaced, not saved.”
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that he considered Mr. Gold’s appointment “an internal Israeli matter,” but that “the lineup” of Mr. Netanyahu’s new team “indicates a continuation of the fait accompli policies, settlement activities and then public-relations dance.”
“The net result is how to destroy the two-state solution and get away with it,” Mr. Erekat said. “The question to all of this group is: Walk us through the day after.”
Despite his Likud Party’s surprisingly strong showing in Israel’s March 17 election, Mr. Netanyahu barely managed to scrape together a 61-member coalition, the slimmest majority in two decades, by the legal deadline. It is made of right-wing and religious parties, with ministerial appointments that Israeli pundits have denounced as farcical or worse.
With the Obama administration having promised to reassess its defense of Israel in international forums, in large part because of questions over Mr. Netanyahu’s commitment to a Palestinian state, some analysts thought the prime minister would try to put a friendlier, centrist face on his foreign policy.
Instead, to handle the Palestinian portfolio, he tapped a Likud minister, Silvan Shalom, who, according to Israeli news reports, has said that he and his colleagues “are all against a Palestinian state” and that the West Bank is “the bulletproof vest of the state of Israel.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s pick for deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, told members of the diplomatic corps last week that they should use the Bible as a tool for telling the world that the entire land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River belongs to the Jews.
Add to those Mr. Gold, and “he has a troika whose views are unacceptable in D.C.,” said Uri Savir, a left-leaning former politician who is a co-founder of the Peres Center for Peace. “We are undermining, by policy and by appointments, the very fundamentals of Israel-U.S. relations,” added Mr. Savir, himself a former foreign ministry director. “I see only wreckage.”
Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, said of Mr. Netanyahu, “He’s obviously going to be more assertive” in this, his fourth term as premier.
“A leader either tends to include in his or her environment people with different or antagonistic views in order to be challenged,” Mr. Rabinovich noted, “or they tend to surround themselves with people who make them comfortable. I am not aware that Netanyahu has ever chosen to select people who were contrarians in order to be intellectually, or policy-wise, challenged.”
Mr. Gold, who is 61 and was born in Connecticut, has been in Mr. Netanyahu’s inner circle at least since he first became prime minister in 1996. In recent years, he has been a kind of ad hoc consultant, traveling with the prime minister for important speeches in the United States, and peddled to the press as a spokesman whose words are backed by academic research.
His six books include “The Rise of Nuclear Iran” (2009); “Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos” (2004); “Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism” (2003); and “The Fight for Jerusalem” (2007), which recently was translated into Chinese. His research group has also recently partnered with one in India, part of Israel’s outreach to Asia in the face of rising criticism from Europe, and he said he meets with former military and political figures in Persian Gulf countries.
“Palestinians will need their own self-governing state,” Mr. Gold said on Monday, “but we have to make sure that any state that arises will not be inconsistent with the security and the national interests of the state of Israel.”
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(via NY Times)