The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA):
AMERICA DECIDES 2004
Seeking to quiet critics, Dean chooses Fuerth as policy adviser
By Matthew E. Berger
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (JTA) For a presidential campaign eager to dispel questions about a candidates commitment to Israel, appointing Leon Fuerth could be just what the doctor ordered.
Last week, Howard Deans campaign named Fuerth chairman of Deans foreign policy team.
With Dean as president, Israel will have as good a friend in the White House as it has ever had, Fuerth told reporters Monday.
Fuerth, who served as Al Gores national security adviser both when Gore was a senator and when he was vice president, was a leading architect of Gores policy positions on Middle Eastern issues, including his vote for the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Fuerths appointment is expected to go a long way toward counterbalancing the negative reception Dean has had among some Jews because of his missteps.
Those in the pro-Israel community who know Leon Fuerth and the role he played with Vice President Gore will be pleased, said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. He has a long record of involvement and there have been any number of encounters that demonstrate his understanding of the region and his support for a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.
The primary value of the new appointment is the foreign policy gravitas Fuerth brings to a campaign trying to quiet concerns about the international-affairs savvy of a physician who became governor of Vermont, the nations second-smallest state.
Fuerth has eight years of experience as a principal in White House planning meetings with Cabinet officials during the Clinton administration. He would have been the leading candidate to become national security adviser had Gore won the presidency in 2000.
Fuerth, a Jew with a pro-Israel record, could help dispel some Jews concerns about Dean.
During the campaign, Dean has suggested that the United States should take a more even-handed approach toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called Hamas terrorists soldiers and said that former President Jimmy Carter whom many supporters of Israel consider biased toward the Palestinians would make a good Middle East envoy.
Deans campaign has said the even-handed comment was a clumsy attempt to call for increased U.S. involvement in the peace process, that by calling Hamas members soldiers he was bolstering Israels right to make them military targets, and that some of the other Democratic candidates also have touted Carter as a possible envoy.
Last week, Dean sought to quiet another potential storm by repudiating newly resurfaced 1998 remarks some critics suggested were conciliatory toward Hamas.
NBC News aired segments from a 1998 Canadian television appearance in which Dean said that if Hamas took power, it might actually have to be more responsible and start negotiations with Israel.
Last Friday, Dean said that in the years since he gave the interview, it has become crystal clear that Hamas is an unrepentant terrorist organization and the Palestinian Authority must live up to its obligations to the United States and Israel and dismantle Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Deans gaffes have been exacerbated by an unsigned Internet campaign calling Dean anti-Israel.
The Dean campaigns naming of Clyde Prestowitz as a foreign policy adviser was a further cause for concern among many Jews. Prestowitz, who advises Dean on international economics and globalization, recently wrote a book in which he said U.S. aid to Israel should be contingent on Israels withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, a freeze on settlement development and the uprooting of most settlements.
The Dean campaign said Prestowitz would not advise Dean on the Middle East. Fuerths appointment reinforces that point.
Leon Fuerths appointment helps send a very strong message to the foreign-policy world and the American Jewish community that Howard Deans values and policies related to the Middle East should be ones they should be comfortable with, said Steve Grossman, national co-chair of Dean for America and a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Before Fuerth, Grossman was doing much of the heavy lifting for Dean on Israel, using his own reputation and experience to pacify skeptics in the Jewish community. AIPAC welcomed Fuerths appointment Jan. 7.
Fuerth has worked very closely with pro-Israel activists on arms-control and non-proliferation issues.
He told reporters Monday that, as president, Dean would haul these issues into his office, to become thoroughly saturated.
He suggested that Dean understands there is no substitute for American presidential involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Dean advisers say the candidate is seeking more information from the Israeli government about the location of Israels security fence, and would like to know why in some cases it crosses into the West Bank. But Fuerth said Dean sees the security rationale for the controversial barrier.
Fuerth did not enunciate Deans positions on several issues, instead choosing to give his own viewpoints. He suggested that Dean should learn the subject inside and out before determining whether to promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as mandated by U.S. law.
President Bush made that promise as a candidate, but since has postponed the move every six months, citing national security concerns.
Whatever you say has to be meant, Fuerth said.
In the Clinton administration, Fuerth led the opposition to waiving sanctions in 1998 against foreign companies investing in Irans energy sector.
In 1988, he prepped Gore to oppose the Reagan administrations call for Israel to accept a peace deal that would have meant withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Fuerth told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2000 that the U.S. relationship with Israel was not based on economics but on shared values and principles.
We accepted as an axiom that the security of this state said something about our own definition about who we are, in addition to any reasoning that we can make about how it affected our material interests in the world, he said. And we have acted on that, and we can be counted upon to continue to act upon it.
While many Democrats lauded Deans Fuerth appointment, they nonetheless predicted that some Jews would never be assuaged.
This is a first-class appointment and very indicative of where Deans Middle East policy will be heading, said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. But, for some small group in the Jewish community, Deans appointment of David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon to his foreign policy team would still be met with scorn.
Morris Amitay, a pro-Israel activist and former AIPAC executive director, said Fuerth is well respected as a foreign policy professional, but he has never distinguished himself on Israel-related issues.