JAFFA, Israel – Daniel Kurtzer, President Obama’s Mideast adviser, is the lead candidate to serve as U.S. ambassador to Syria, a senior Egyptian security official told WND.
Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, long has been seen in Jerusalem as one of the Jewish state’s greatest foes in Washington. He has been identified by Jewish and Israeli leaders, including prime ministers speaking on the record, as biased against Israel and is notorious for urging extreme concessions from the Jewish state.
In a surprise move, the White House in June announced it decided to send a U.S. ambassador back to Syria, a dramatic sign of reconciliation between the two countries. The U.S. withdrew the American ambassador to Syria in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. Syria was widely blamed in the murder.
Syria, in a military alliance with Iran, also is accused of supporting the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria openly supports Palestinian terrorism, and hosts the leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups.
According to a source with close ties to the State Department, the Obama White House recently transferred responsibility of U.S.-Syrian policy from State to the White House.
The White House did not immediately respond to a query about whether Kurtzer was being considered for the position.
‘Foe of Israel’
Kurtzer came under fire last summer when he traveled to Damascus where he reportedly urged Syrian officials to fast-track negotiations with Israel aiming at an Israeli withdrawal from the strategic Golan Heights. Kurtzer at the time stressed he was not in Damascus as part of Obama’s campaign but instead was visiting as a private expert attending an international lawyers conference.
The Golan looks down on Israeli population centers and twice was used by Syria to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.
Kurtzer has been blasted by mainstream Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which usually restrains itself when commenting on U.S. officials.
“We oppose the appointment of Kurtzer because of his long, documented record of hostility to and severe pressure upon Israel,” said Zionist Organization of America National Chairman Morton Klein.
He has angered Israeli leaders many times for pushing Israel into what they described as extreme concessions to the Palestinians.
“With Jews like Kurtzer, it is impossible to build a healthy relationship between Israel and the United States,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted saying in 2001 by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Kurtzer “frequently pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions to the Arabs; he constantly blamed Israel for the absence of Mideast peace, and paid little or no attention to the fact that the Palestinians were carrying out terrorist attacks and openly calling for the destruction of Israel.”
Morris Amitay, former executive director of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2001: “Kurtzer … will use his Jewishness as a protective cover for his anti-Israel views.”
Israel’s leading daily, Yediot Ahronot, editorialized on Kurtzer’s negative influence against Israel.
“Possibly more than any other U.S. State Department official, Kurtzer has been instrumental in promoting the goals of the Palestinians and in raising their afflictions to the center of the U.S. policymakers’ agenda,” the paper stated.
Kurtzer first rose to prominence in 1988 when, as a State Department adviser, he counseled the Reagan administration to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat. The PLO had carried out scores of anti-Western attacks, but in the late ’80s Arafat claimed to have renounced violence.
In 1988, Kurtzer was noted as the principal author of a major policy speech by then-Secretary of State George Shultz in which the U.S. government first recognized the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinians.
Haaretz reported in 2001 that Kurtzer had a “vocal conflict” with an Israeli government official in Philadelphia in the summer of 1990 after Kurtzer “attacked the Israeli government for refusing to include the PLO in the peace process [and] said that this constituted the main obstacle to peace.”