US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Richard Nides
US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Richard NidesOlivier Fitoussi/Flash90

In a special interview with Israel National News's Walter Bingham, Thomas R. Nides, the current American Ambassador to Israel, spoke first about his personal background.

“I’m the youngest of seven kids, from Duluth Minnesota. I grew up in a very culturally Jewish family. My father was the president of the temple, the head of the UJA [United Jewish Appeal]. My mother was the head of the sisterhood, Hadassah. I grew up believing that being Jewish was more than a religion; it was giving back, being part of the community, caring deeply about the State of Israel.”

Bingham mentioned American President Joe Biden’s comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, honing in on his statement expressing Palestinian Arab entitlement to a state of their own. He asked Nides for clarification regarding the historical facts upon which this so-called entitlement is based.

Ambassador Nides responded by referring to Biden’s comment that one need not be a Jew to be a Zionist and that there is no better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. “Joe Biden believes, as I do,” he went on, “that if Israel is to remain a democratic Jewish state, we must not give up the vision for a two-state solution.”

“My job as ambassador is to work with the Israelis and the Palestinians to make sure that vision is not impossible to attain. So that’s what I work on and what Joe Biden works on.”

Bingham again asked the question regarding the historical basis for the entitlement to a Palestinian state. Nides replied that his view, and that of the president, is “the two-state solution based on 67 line with land swaps.”

Still concerned with history, Bingham listed many of the groups that have ruled this land, such as “Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greek, Romans, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamluks, and from about 1517 to the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire ruled much of the region. A Palestinian nation never existed until Yassar Arafat, an Egyptian, started a nationalist movement in 1964 in response to Zionism.” He asked Nides to respond to this.

Nides commented that Bingham is a historian who has lived the history of this country. “My job and the job of President Biden is to keep this being a strong democratic Jewish state. We believe one of the ways in which to do that is to have a two-state solution. Some people may disagree with us. Arguably, public opinion has changed in Israel and even with the Palestinian people. We believe that the solution to keeping a strong democratic Jewish state is the two-state solution and that’s what we’ll work towards.”

Walter presses on with one last question related to this issue. He said that Jerusalem is mentioned 669 times in the Torah and Zion, which also refers to Jerusalem, is mentioned countless times. It also appears in the Christian Bible but not once in the Quran. Then: “Does that not place doubt on the veracity of the Arab claim?”

Nides is emphatic: “Let us be clear: the capital of Israel is Jerusalem. The American ambassador now lives in Jerusalem. I have a home in Jerusalem. The future of Jerusalem will be decided upon by the parties at whatever appropriate time that occurs. We cannot impose our desires but the capital of Israel is Jerusalem.”

Bingham moves on to engage Nides on the subject of American policies in Taiwan. “Biden has said on numerous occasions that the US will defend Taiwan militarily if attacked by China. We heard him say this at the UN and each time, the White House tried to change the meaning, effectively contradicting him. Who is in charge? The Commander in Chief or the unelected officials?”

Nides responded that “Joe Biden tends to be honest and forthright in his views. Our position has been the same for 40 years. The relationship between the US and Taiwan is strong. We provide them with lots of military assistance and we will work with the Taiwanese as we see the situation on the ground evolve. But Joe Biden is president of the United States; make no mistake about that.”

Later on, in response to Bingham's comment that some people suggest Biden does not have all his cognitive faculties, Nides talked about Biden’s visit to Israel.

“He was here. You ask the Israelis who witnessed him here. The vision of Joe Biden getting down on one knee and holding the hands of the two women who were holocaust survivors with tears running down his face and the women’s faces. Seeing what he did at Yad Vashem. Seeing him with Prime Minister Lapid and with Bennett. Seeing him with President Abbas in Bethlehem. Actions speak louder than words. Joe Biden is forceful. He’s articulate. He knows this country and he knows the issues of the Middle East probably better than any single president, dead or alive. He is in control and he certainly understands his position and what he should be doing.”

Nides was not willing to predict what might happen in the future in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. But he was clear about how Putin is perceived: “Putin is a madman. Putin has committed atrocities that will forever be in the history of mankind. He’ll be judged, not for what he has done for the Russian people but for what he has done TO the Russian people and to the Ukrainian people.”

Returning to an issue of concern to Jews, Bingham mentioned the upcoming anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of Breaking Glass Pogrom) that began on November 9 and asked for Nides’ feelings about that given the global rise in anti-Semitism today.

“It breaks my heart,” Nides responded. “You look around and you see hate everywhere. Not just in Europe with the rise of antisemitism and right-wing governments, you see the hate in the United States, fractions of our country being pulled apart. So I think we’ve got to keep our eyes wide open. We’ve got to fight the anti-Semites. We’ve got to fight the people who just want to hate. And we have to do it every day and we can’t sleep until it’s resolved.”