Tel Aviv’s man in Washington

Originally published: Antiwar.com on November 21, 2023 by James W. Carden (more by Antiwar.com) (Posted Dec 05, 2023)

In a city awash in foreign interests, dual citizens, and intersecting and at times conflicting loyalties, sometimes the most egregious examples are hiding in plain sight.

While largely complicit in the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that dictates, among many other things, that we never ever mention that the Long Island-raised editor of the once venerable Atlantic magazine (and now host of Washington Week on PBS) served as an Israeli prison guard who, according to his own account, beat Palestinian prisoners under his watch, every few years legacy media awakens from its slumber and actually does its job.

The last such instance was probably in 2014 when the New York Times published a lengthy expose of the ties between DC think tanks like the Atlantic Council, CSIS, the Brookings Institution and foreign interests.

Not that it mattered. In the years following, a Russian foreign national employed by Brookings, Igor Danchenko, was found to have been the source of the false and defamatory accusations at the heart of the Steele dossier.

The legendary reporter James Bamford has for years almost single handedly done the work of many newspapers in exposing the machinations the Israeli intelligence service on American campuses, within the entertainment industry, and within the most sensitive precincts of the American national security state.

Still, Americans remain, despite the very best efforts of journalists like Bamford, woefully under-informed about the extent to which foreign influence pervades the U.S. government.

And one of the more troubling examples of foreign influence at the highest levels of government has not merited a peep out of the media—though it has not gone unnoticed elsewhere.

This week, it was reported that President Joe Biden, lacking an even minimally competent Secretary of State, has sent White House senior adviser Amos Hochstein for consultations with senior Israeli officials in the hope of heading off a war between Israel and Lebanon.

The choice of Hochstein for such a delicate diplomatic task ought to have raised eyebrows in Washington, not least because of the unusual background of Mr. Biden’s personal envoy.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, Amos J. Hochstein is an Israeli-US national who served in the Israeli Defense Forces in the early 1990s. After service in the IDF, he appears to have been employed briefly at a Tel Aviv PR agency before moving to Washington and commencing his ascent to the highest reaches of the U.S. government, beginning with a staff position for Congressman Sam Gejdenson and then as Staff Director of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. According to the Lebanese news platform L’Orient, as a congressional staffer in the 1990s, Hochstein “met with an Iraqi Foreign Ministry official to discuss a plan to resettle Palestinians in Iraq in return for sanctions relief.” This background, little noted in the American press, is more than a bit germane to Hochstein’s current policy portfolio.

Nevertheless, after a stint as a lobbyist and registered foreign agent, Hochstein joined the Obama administration, eventually overseeing the energy portfolio at the State Department.

Yet there are a number of things in Mr. Hochstein’s background that should have raised the eyebrows of the U.S. counterintelligence, to say nothing of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security which oversees the granting of security clearances in the Department.

Where was the man billed as “Biden’s favorite energy guy” educated? Does he have a college degree or an advanced degree in energy policy? If so, no one will say. When reached for comment, the State Department, where Hochstein worked for over 6 years, refused to answer and referred me to the White House. While one biographical sketch mentions Hochstein’s ownership interests in two DC area restaurants and a movie theater, nothing with regard to his education are to be found in the public record.

How did a young Israeli with no experience in American politics land such coveted positions on Capitol Hill at such a young age?

Down the years, Hochstein seems to have had his fingers in any numbers of shadowy operations over the past several years starting with a well remunerative board seat on the Ukrainian state oil and gas giant Naftogaz.

It was reported early on in the Biden administration that Hochstein was the president’s choice to lead the administration’s efforts to kill the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Given Hochstein’s ties to Ukrainian oil and gas interests, the conflict of interest seems all too apparent.

Leaving that specific question of propriety aside, the question still remains: How could someone of Hochstein’s (opaque) background possibly be viewed as an honest broker in the Middle East?

Spoiler alert: He isn’t.

Here’s how he was received in the region 2021, when Biden dispatched him to mediate a maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon. Predictably, the reception from Lebanon was hostile, with the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar somewhat uncharitably describing Hochstein as,

…an Israeli-born who served with the Israeli occupation army, killed the people of this land (Lebanon) and now acts in Beirut as a man on a spy mission in favor of his “homeland” (the Zionist entity).

Yet the negative reception wasn’t confined to Lebanon. The estimable Israeli newspaper Haaretz also called for an end to,

…the American brokerage farce, whose players are almost all American Jews, some of them former or future Israelis. If the United States is a side in the conflict, then it should say so and conduct the negotiation as though Israel is its protégé. And if it really wants to be an honest broker, then come on—Amos Hochstein?

Who do they think they’re kidding?

Just so.

The practice of appointing foreign nationals in sensitive positions of public trust are wildly inappropriate and lead, inevitably, to a subversion of U.S. national interests. As Biden and his staff of bought and paid for political appointees drag us deeper and deeper into two wars 5,000 miles from our shores, the pernicious influence of foreign nationals at the highest levels of the U.S. government is a danger the American people need to awaken to.

James W. Carden is a columnist and former adviser to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the U.S. Department of State. His articles and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Nation, The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, The Spectator, UnHerd, The National Interest, Quartz, The Los Angeles Times, and American Affairs.

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