Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Obama's pro-Israel chief of staff quits

Taken from here.

WASHINGTON // Barack Obama yesterday announced the resignation of his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a staunch supporter of Israel, in the highest-profile change yet in the US president’s nearly two-year administration.

Mr Emanuel, who is quitting to run for Chicago mayor, will be replaced, at least in the interim period, by the administration insider and Obama confidant Pete Rouse. The change will mark a shift in tone in the White House. Mr Rouse is seen as a quiet and conciliatory figure in stark contrast to Mr Emanuel, who is known to supporters and detractors alike as "Rhambo" for his pugilistic and brusque manner.

The news may also be met with some relief in the Middle East where Mr Emanuel's appointment, one of the first by Mr Obama after taking office, was greeted with near unanimous disappointment. Mr Emanuel volunteered for the Israeli army during the 1991 Gulf war and has long advocated that a militarily strong Israel is a strategic US interest. When he was appointed to the Obama administration, Ma'ariv, an Israeli newspaper, even ran a story about him headlined, "Our man in the White House".

Fiercely partisan, he has rarely voted against his own Democratic Party, but did so to support the position of George W Bush, the former US president, on democratisation in the Middle East. He was also a vocal opponent of plans to allow Dubai Ports World to manage operations at six US ports in 2006, plans that would eventually founder on intense congressional opposition. It was Mr Emanuel who was tasked with smoothing over tensions with Israel when Washington and the Israeli government clashed over the timing of a large settlement tender in occupied East Jerusalem earlier this year.

Nevertheless, it is not clear if his resignation will have much consequence for US Middle East policy. While his original appointment might have been designed partly to allay fears among pro-Israel groups in the US about the Obama administration's Middle East policy, Mr Emanuel was mostly concerned during his time in the White House with pushing through the administration's legislative agenda in congress, not least on healthcare reform.

And when he did get involved with the Middle East, there are suggestions that he clashed, sometimes fiercely, with Israeli government officials, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who is reported to have called him a "self-hating Jew". His resignation after two years is also part of a traditional turnover of officials as mid-term elections loom and the administration's focus shifts from pushing through legislation to consolidating positions.

No comments:

Post a Comment