According to the Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, “Khalilzad is considered to have a positive attitude towards Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship.” Hoenlein, whose umbrella organization is the central coordinating body for 50 national Jewish organizations, said he expects Khalilzad to maintain the U.S.’s current policies on Israel.
He added that Khalilzad’s background may also be a plus for the both the U.S. and Israel in the world body. “Having a Muslim ambassador may help improve communication with some member states at the U.N.,” he said. But the final word on the American agenda remains in the hands of the President, he added, saying, “I don’t see any major shift in U.S.-Israel policy.”
Khalilzad’s appointment was also met with positive reactions from officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who said they “look forward to working with him.”
The Bush administration is going through a number of personnel changes at present. John Negroponte, until now the director of National Intelligence, is moving over to take the number two spot at the State Department as deputy to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Prior to his stint as intelligence chief, Negroponte served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
The international executive vice president of the Bnai Brith organization, Dan Mariaschin, spoke warmly about Negroponte’s tenure in the U.N. when commenting on Khalilzad’s appointment, saying he hoped the new ambassador would continue the “Negroponte doctrine” at the world body. Mariaschin was referring to Negroponte’s policy of vetoing one-sided anti-Israel resolutions presented in the U.N. Security Council.
Khalilzad’s immediate predecessor, John Bolton, was not approved by the U.S. Senate to continue in the post due to his criticism of the U.N. and strong ideological convictions. Bolton was a staunch supporter of Israel and his loss has some Jewish leaders worried.
“Not having John Bolton at the U.N. will be a change. You could see a different kind of advocacy there,” said one unnamed Jewish leader who asked not to be identified. “For John Bolton, support for Israel was a major concern. For others it might be less of a priority.”
Khalilzad, a Sunni Muslim, currently serves as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, a position he took up after serving in the same role in Afghanistan, where he was born. Khalilzad studied at the American University of Beirut and the University of Chicago. He must still be confirmed by the Senate in order to formally take up his new post.