'Loss of US clout in ME will deeply impact Israel'

Former US diplomat Eizenstat tells Knesset c'tee that shrinking economic might, rise of Islamists changing US capabilities in region.

June 20, 2012 04:50
2 minute read.
Former US diplomat Stuart Eizenstat

Stuart Eizenstat 370. (photo credit: Presidential Conference)


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The waning influence of the US in the Middle East and around the world will have far-reaching consequences for the Jewish people and Israel, a former US diplomat told a Knesset committee on Tuesday.

Stuart Eizenstat, the former US ambassador to the UN and a Jewish policy expert, said Washington is having to come to terms with its shrinking economic might and the rise of Islamists in countries like Egypt, drastically changing its diplomatic capabilities in the region.

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“The US has always been an ascendent power – not always a dominant one... but after the Second World War it become a dominant one,” he said. “We remain and will remain the dominant power but others are closing the gap military, economical and politically.”

The ex-diplomat, who recently released a book called The Future of the Jews, said his nation is now competing for power with the BRICs, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and others. These countries, he said, will have more of a say in world politics commensurate with their new economic status.

At the same time, Eizenstat said the US would continue to play an important part in international politics in the future.

“We’ve dug ourselves a deep hole but continue to produce 25 percent of world GDP and of particular importance to Israel we continue to be the only power to project air, land and sea power globally,” he said.

Eizenstat, who is a well-connected Democratic party lobbyist, also commented on Iran’s nuclear program. He praised US President Barack Obama for putting together an “unprecedented” set of sanctions against Tehran, which Israel has accused of trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

“On the broadest level, the US and Europe share a common goal with Israel, that is to deny Iran a weapon,” said Eizenstat. “Obama has got together an unprecedented set of sanctions – including those against South Africa and North Korea.”

Eizenstat then turned his attention to ties between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. The balance of power in the Jewish world has shifted, he said.

Since 2007, the largest single Jewish community in the world lives in Israel, surpassing the US. This trend, which he said he expects to continue, mirrors global politics.

“Just as there has been a profound shift of power from the US elsewhere there has been a shift of power from the Diaspora to Israel,” he said.

For that reason he expected Israel to become increasingly responsible for setting up and funding programs fostering Jewish ties. He cited Taglit- Birthright, which brings young Jewish adults on free trips to Israel, as an example.

Eizenstat called on the Israeli government to increase its funding of the program assuming responsibility from private donors like US businessmen Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman.

He said Birthright and other programs were the best way to reduce intermarriage and assimilation in Jewish America.

“When my wife and I get an invitation to a Jewish wedding that’s not the rule,” he said, “that’s the exception.”

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