It was inevitable that the world would eventually realize the unhappy fact that President-elect Barack Obama will not represent a complete break with the past 60 years of American diplomacy. By tapping Rahm Emanuel, a fierce partisan of Israel who volunteered as a mechanic in northern Israel during the first Gulf War, it is fair to say that process has already begun.
For example, what does Abu Jayab, the young Palestinian in Gaza who was cold-calling Americans, imploring them to vote for Obama, think about the fact that the president-elect’s first major appointment is a man who is being hailed by the Israeli press as “our man in the White House?”
Rahm’s father Benjamin Emanuel served in the Irgun, a Jewish terrorist group that targeted British and Palestinian civilians — most famously with the King David Hotel bombing and the Deir Yassin massacre — to advance the goal of creating a Zionist state. This week, the elder Emanuel has not exactly assuaged doubts about his son’s pedigree. “Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he told the Israel daily Maariv, “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab?”
But Rahm Emanuel has always combined hyper-partisan rhetoric with relatively centrist policy views, and that may hold true for his stance on Israel as well. During his work on the Oslo Accords under President Clinton, he developed his closest relationships with the aides to the dovish Labor Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. If Emanuel is seen as sympathetic to Israel’s plight, but also unafraid to use his legendary toughness to pressure Israeli leaders during the inevitable foot-dragging over the removal of key settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, he could be a key player in the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Photo: Lauren Victoria Burke/ABC NEWS via Getty Images
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Feature |