With references from Zbig…


Zbigniew Brzezinski appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and recommended Dennis Ross for the Tel Aviv embassy gig… and Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation (here blogging at Huffington Post) likes the idea.

Clemons’ link pulls up the first half of the interview – which includes interesting insights from Carter’s national security adviser on how Gen. James Jones as national security adviser might get along with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State – but it cuts off before he recommends Ross. (We have more on Jones and Clinton here.)

Ross, of course, emerged as Barack Obama’s chief Jewish beard . He had the credibility, as Clinton’s top Middle East peacemaker, to sell the Jewish community Obama’s foreign policy bonafides. It helped Obama’s bipartisan cred that Ross serves as a bridge between Oslo process pragmatists and neocons in his current role at the Washington Insitiute for Near East Policy.

So what Obama does with him would say a lot about how serious Obama is about some of the ideas Ross embraces, and which helped make Obama’s case to the pro-Israel community: a tough posture vis-a-vis Iran, soft-pedalling Israeli-Palestinian peace until the Palestinians unify, pressing forward on talks with Syria.

It’s not that ambassador to Israel doesn’t make sense. A top job for Ross now seems unlikely, and why would he settle for a deputy role, coinsidering the freedoms he enjoyed as Clinton’s Middle East negotiator? Ambassador may seem a step down, but it means living the process every day, and possibly playing a pivotal role in bringing about an agreement.

But, as Clemons points out, it also denies Ross a shot at an enhanced role as chief Middle East peace broker. (Once, Bill Clinton was considered a natch for this job – making his wife his boss would seem to count out that role.) And Brzezinski, who has already made clear that he thinks an Israeli-Palestinian deal ASAP is  critical, would probably not mind seeing Ross – who already has the title of ambassador – sidelined from policy-making.

So here’s the thing: Brzezinski is not beloved by the pro-Israel community, in part because of his sharp Carter-era preference for Saudi Arabia, but since then, because of his overblown accusations that charges of anti-Semitism are used as a cudgel against critics of Israel.*As I’ve noted elsewhere, Brzezinski was not the adviser to Obama Republicans depicted – but the candidate did solicit his endorsement.

Does Zbig know something we do not? Is a job reference from him just a job reference? Or is it like that scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesci thinks he’s getting  "made" but is in fact getting "done"?

*Before you comment, yes, some pro-Israel voices were once – decades ago – promiscuous in how they batted around charges of anti-Semitism, but that is hardly the case now. My sense now is that – deep breath – charging those who question the motives of others who massively exaggerate the influence of the pro-Israel lobby with wantonly accusing their targets of anti-Semitism is in itself a bid to silence the critics of the Israel-critics. Read that again, it should make sense.

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