U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides held an interview with Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead at the 2023 Herzliya Conference at Reichman University today (Monday).
“When President Joe Biden gave me this job", Nides recalled, "he said, ‘There is an unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States - you don’t break it on your watch.’ The alliance is very healthy. The relationship is in our kishkes. It’s beyond military, intelligence… it’s the shared values, it’s the sharing of what it’s like to be a democracy. Do friends argue? Yes, of course. But the reality is that the relationship is unbreakable and we continue to expand and grow it every day.”
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilead asked Nides: “Can Israel attack Iran without the US? What about the lack of meetings between President Biden and PM Netanyahu? Even with all the cooperation we have between our two countries, you need the heads to make the cooperation substantial."
Nides answered: “The coordination between Israel and US vis-à-vis our mutual enemies, our common threats in the region, is rock solid. One of the things President Biden assured both PM Bennett and Lapid, and Netanyahu, was that there would be complete transparency regarding coordination on Iran. Everyone - Centcom, Congress, the White House, etc. — we’re all focusing on this together. It’s imperative that we understand the threat. And it’s not just Iran, it’s its proxies. We stand here to support Israel and work with it to make sure Iran never attains a nuclear weapon.”
On normalization with Saudi Arabia Nides added: “I give tremendous credit to the previous administration and to my predecessor David Friedman for obtaining the Abraham Accords. They have changed the dynamics in the region in a fundamental way. One of the reasons President Biden went from Israel to Saudi Arabia was to improve the relationship over time. Normalization with Saudi Arabia would be a game changer, because it wouldn’t just be Saudi Arabia, it would mean much of the Muslim world. Are we committed to pushing this forward and trying to see if there’s a way to do this? Of course. I can’t predict the future, but we would like to lean into this over time.”
The ambassador related to the Palestinian Arab issue and stated: “I’ve been to every shiva call for victims of terrorism. I would never compromise the security of Israel. But for everyone’s security, I believe we need to help the Palestinian people. We’ll leave the idea of the two-state solution to other thinkers. As Joe Biden said, we want to do practical things. That’s the reason I spend so much time doing things like opening the Allenby Bridge, getting 4G, working on hospitals, education… things that give the Palestinians to give them a sense of belief in the future. At the end of the day, it will make Israel safer.”
In regards to Ukraine Nides said: “The leadership role played by the president and the U.S. to rally NATO together to stop the Russian aggression in Ukraine has been a remarkable development. We’ve got to back the Ukrainian people. When the US and our allies come together it’s an unbelievably powerful force. It sends a strong message to the rest of the world. We can be very effective in stopping aggression at the doorstep.”
Nides was asked regarding his decision to resign. “This is a phenomenal job", he answered, "Israel is one of the most, if not the most, important allies of the US. This is a spectacular, emotional, interesting and important job. But I want to be close to my wife and kids. You also want to leave while people still like you! And that’s not so easy. One of things I learned when I took this job is that people really care about this place. It’s an enormous honor to have this job.”
The US ambassador related to Israeli democracy and stated: “Forget what side of the issue of judicial reform you’re on – every weekend for 20 weeks between 150,000-250,000 Israelis have gone out to the streets. That’s the equivalent of 6 or 7 million Americans showing up to protest every week, which has never happened. Almost on one’s been arrested, there’s been no damage of property, no one’s been killed. And that’s a democracy. It’s a remarkable testament to this place. Israel’s going through a complicated period, but make no mistake – this is a thriving democracy with people who care very much about the country, and that is something we should be very, very proud of.”