‘Being Maraed’


The Boston Globe looks at Mara Rudman, who will soon take over as chief of staff for Middle East envoy George Mitchell:

She once yelled at an Israeli ambassador over Israel’s arms sales to China. Then she took a senior member of the Palestinian Authority to the woodshed over corruption.

Mara Rudman, the Hyannis-bred executive secretary of President Obama’s National Security Council, is known for being tough on everyone.

"She is capable of staring you down and making you back down without even opening her mouth," said M.J. Rosenberg, director of policy analysis at the Israel Policy Forum, a progressive Jewish group. "She’s a real New Englander: very serious, not frivolous. I have a lot of respect for her."

Later this month, State Department officials said, Rudman, 46, will be appointed chief of staff to the "dream team" that is being assembled by Special Envoy George Mitchell to tackle one of Obama’s most ambitious foreign policy goals: the creation of a Palestinian state. …

Many see Rudman’s appointment as a sign that Obama intends to be exacting with both Israelis and Palestinians. "You need someone in that position who is willing to call a spade a spade," said Todd Deatherage, a former State Department official under former President George W. Bush.

A longtime figure on the progressive left, Rudman, who declined to comment for this article, is seen as a hawkish dove, inclined toward forceful, but incremental moves rather than grand, risky actions.

"She is a firm believer in not taking a step until the ground is ready for it," Robert Malley, who served on former President Bill Clinton’s peace team.

Rudman is also known for her ability to expose flaws in opposing viewpoints with humiliating precision – a practice that former colleagues across Washington jokingly refer to as "being Maraed."

Still, her admirers say she can recognize the areas of common agreement in vastly different viewpoints, and that she has the exact combination of steely determination and discipline needed to move the peace agenda forward across the minefields of opposition in Washington and Israel.

The article delves into Rudman’s background:

Raised in a Jewish family in Hyannis, Rudman attended Dartmouth in the early 1980s, where she took a seminar with Ian Lustick, a former State Department official who was studying how Israeli settlements might prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

"Mara was the first student to get what I was doing," said Lustick, who served as an informal adviser to President George H. W. Bush when the White House held up $10 billion in US loan guarantees pending Israeli assurances that the money would not fund settlements.

Lustick, who advised Rudman’s senior thesis on British settlements in Northern Ireland, said Rudman stood out among the idealistic students in his class because she understood "that not all problems have win-win-solutions." …

In 1986, Rudman traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories for the first time, writing a research paper on civil rights lawyers who were fighting deportations and detentions of Palestinian activists. Most of the Israelis she met were more worried about the price of tomatoes than the treatment of Palestinians, whose frustration was about to explode into the first intifada, Rudman wrote in the Harvard Human Rights Yearbook in 1988.

Rudman graduated from Harvard Law School in 1990, and went on to work for two Washington powerhouses: Lee Hamilton, then chairman of the House International Affairs Committee and Sandy Berger, at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, who later brought her to serve as executive secretary at the National Security Council under Clinton.

She played a minor role in Clinton’s Mideast efforts, planning a package of US economic and military support that Israelis would need to sell a peace plan to their own public. The collapse of Clinton’s peace accord gave Rudman "a sense both of how difficult this is, but also the determination to try to achieve progress," Berger said.

The lesson that Rudman seemed to take away was that the "US had to be more assertive about its own interests, and not be pushed around by either side," said Malley.

During the Bush administration, Rudman worked for the Cohen Group, which was hired by the Israel Policy Forum to build support in the United States for a two-state solution. In 2007, she helped launched the Middle East Bulletin, a newsletter at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank, that published writings by Mitchell.

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