Ex-US envoy wanted NGOs in Israel to spur non-violent protests for peace

Official in Jerusalem says this shows need for proposed NGO transparency law.

By
January 13, 2016 02:44
3 minute read.
THOMAS PICKERING

THOMAS PICKERING. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Jerusalem pushed back Tuesday against US “displeasure” with the proposed NGO Transparency Law, using the recent trove of released emails from former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as evidence as to why such a law is needed.

The NRG website, which combed the recently released trove of Clinton’s emails from her personal server for references regarding Israel, highlighted an email sent from former US ambassador Thomas Pickering to Clinton on December 18, 2011, and which she asked to print for additional clarification.

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Pickering, a veteran US diplomat who served as Washington’s ambassador to Israel under Ronald Reagan from 1985-1988, wrote Clinton with a suggestion on how to jump start the stymied Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. During his long diplomatic career, Pickering also served as Washington’s ambassador to Jordan, Russia, India and the United Nations.

His novel suggestion, “in the spirit of Gandhi,” was to launch “a major effort to use non-violent protests and demonstrations and protests to put peace back in the center of people’s aspirations, as well as their thoughts, and use that to influence the political leadership.”

“This is far from a sure thing, but far, in my humble view, from hopeless,” he wrote.

“Women can and ought to be at the center of these demonstrations.”

According to Pickering, the focus needed to be on women demonstrators because they were less prone than men to resort to violence.



“It must be all and only women. Why? On the Palestinian side, the male culture is to use force,” he wrote. “Palestinian men will not for long patiently demonstrate — they will be inclined over time and much too soon to be frustrated and use force. Their male culture comes close to requiring it.”

Pickering drew parallels between these proposed demonstrations and the protests that took place earlier that year in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which eventually unseated Hosni Mubarak.

He stressed that the US must be the silent hand behind this and not be seen in any way as involved.

“Most of all, the United States, in my view, cannot be seen to have stimulated, encouraged or be the power behind it for reasons you will understand better than anyone,” he wrote. “I believe third parties and a number NGOs on both sides would help,” he said, mentioning Peace Now.

There is no indication any part of this proposal was acted upon or put into practice.

The NRG report on this email appeared the same day that the US embassy made clear its displeasure with the NGO Transparency Law championed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, which would require NGOs that receive half of their funds from foreign governments detail that information and wear special identifying tags in the Knesset.

US ambassador Dan Shapiro met with Shaked on Sunday and expressed the US’s reservations to the proposed legislation saying, “a free and functioning civil society is an essential element of a healthy democracy, and that governments must protect free expression and peaceful dissent and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.”

One senior government official noted the irony that the US embassy issued its statement at the time when Pickering’s emails expose “a proposal that was brought before the US government to manipulate NGOs to put pressure on the Israeli government.”

The senior official said he was “stunned” at the suggestion that the “US government would have encouraged demonstrations and unrest among the Palestinians through NGOs to try and change the policy of Israel’s democratically elected government.”

This, he said, “just reinforces the need for the NGO transparency law currently being discussed in the Knesset.”


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