On Monday, the United States lost one of its most brilliant individuals. It is
almost impossible to provide one title for Richard Holbrooke as that would be a
disservice to all the other tasks and offices that he held. To me, Richard was a
passionate American patriot and one of the strongest champions of a robust and
unbreakable US-Israel relationship.
Above all I was honored to call him a
friend. During the course of many years, I felt privileged to spend many
evenings with him, both in professional and personal capacities.
was a public servant, who was at the same time a fierce defender of American
interests and a determined seeker of peace and reconciliation.
hostile detractors incredibly see that as an oxymoron, few embodied the
greatness of US values and ethos more than Richard Holbrooke.
HE WAS most
notable globally for his leading role in shaping the Dayton Accords, which ended
the bloodshed in Bosnia; ironically signed on the 14th of December, 15 years
ago. In Bosnia, as in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places, Richard’s energy and
creativity to push forward historic reconciliation saved countless
His role in bringing the fight against AIDS to the highest
international attention should not be overlooked.
Even in his private
life, Richard became a champion of the battle against one of the great scourges
of our time and turned a little- known organization dealing with HIV and other
deadly diseases into an internationally renowned NGO, the Global Business
Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
humanitarianism and good sound business knowledge for the good of humanity. As
in all of his roles, Richard seamlessly synthesized differing areas of expertise
for a common goal.
For us in Israel, Richard well understood our nation’s
aspirations and fought passionately for them when he felt we were unfairly
Along with former president Bill Clinton, secretary of state
Madeleine Albright, Richard helped secure membership for Israel in the United
Nation’s Western European and Others regional group, ending Israel’s historic
exclusion from regional group deliberations at the UN.
But it was
Richard’s research and position on the “epic struggle in Washington” over how to
respond to Israel’s Declaration of Independence that resonates most with me. In
my office sits a copy of President Harry Truman’s recognition of the minutesold
State of Israel.
While many take the Israel-US relationship as a given
and acknowledge that American presidents from both the Democratic and Republican
parties have supported or enhanced our strategic partnership, it has not all
been smooth sailing. In fact, the first American act towards the Jewish state
was fraught with power struggles at the highest levels.
helped discover the spectacular events surrounding Truman’s recognition, with
the president’s former aide, Clark Clifford, little was known of the formidable
resistance in the American administration regarding recognition of
Truman had to disregard the advice and threats from his trusted
secretary of state and war hero, George C. Marshall, to recognize Israel.
Marshall not only threatened to quit but also to vote against the president in
upcoming elections. Furthermore, Marshall’s position was supported by the
foreign policy establishment and many in the cabinet.
Richard saw in
Truman’s recognition a righteous stand and stated in a Washington Post
that “despite complicated consequences that continue to this day, it is a
decision all Americans should recognize and admire.”
decision, Richard hoped to emulate firm support for Israel, not because of
domestic politics or strategic advantages, but because of a moral conviction.
This is Richard’s enduring lesson for us all.
It remains my strong belief
that while political realism and foreign interests dictate the positions of
some, unless a strong basis of moral conviction guides our decisions, we will
not leave the world a better place than when we entered it.
many around the world, in Israel and the US, who are that much better off
because of Richard Holbrooke.
The writer is deputy minister of foreign
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