One of John Kerry’s closest confidantes is now in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio at the State Department.
Mark Toner, the acting State Department spokesman and an Obama administration holdover, announced Wednesday that Michael Ratney, former U.S. consul to Jerusalem, will now take point on the Middle East conflict.
Martin Indyk — former U.S. ambassador to Israel who had been described as the Obama administration’s “anti-Israel apologist” — praised the appointment, tweeting that Ratney was a “valued member of Kerry’s peace team.”
State Dept announced Tuesday: Michael Ratney to handle ME peace process at State. Former ConGen J'm and valued member of Kerry's peace team.— Martin Indyk (@Martin_Indyk) March 8, 2017
Joel Braunold, the executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (which is rife with anti-Israel membership), also gave approval for the appointment.
Michael Ratney running point for Israel Palestine at state for the time being means all of us can breathe a little— Joel Braunold (@braunold) March 8, 2017
Controversy has been ubiquitous throughout Michael Ratney’s Israel-related career.
While he served as Jerusalem consul, Ratney oversaw grants to OneVoice, a leftist non-profit that President Obama allegedly used to try to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s 2015 election.
About $350,000 was dumped into OneVoice to “build a voter database, train activists and hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Obama’s campaign.” The group hired a former top Obama campaign official, Jeremy Bird — described by The New York Times as “the architect” of the former president’s grassroots campaign — in efforts to oust Netanyahu.
After word of Obama potentially interfering in a foreign election was released, an investigation was opened up in the matter. However, when Congress called upon Ratney to release his emails, he claimed ignorance, saying he never saw the ones related to OneVoice. Even more suspiciously, he deleted the evidence.
Ratney’s deletion of his emails, instead of archiving them, put him in direct violation of the State Department’s policies. He claimed he was not aware of the rule at the time.
As U.S. consul to Jerusalem, Ratney was in charge of overseeing a controversial Palestinian arms training program that violated a 2011 agreement with the Israeli government, according to the Times of Israel. Ratney’s staffers were “in effect setting up an armed Palestinian militia in the consulate,” an Israeli officer said at the time. “They are being trained with weapons, in Krav Maga, and tactical driving. It’s irresponsible. Who can guarantee that such weapons in the hands of Palestinians won’t spread to terror?” he asked.
After his controversial tenure in Jerusalem, Ratney then served as U.S special envoy for Syria, a position he currently maintains at the State Department.
Michael Ratney is a holdover from an administration that constantly demonized the state of Israel from top to bottom. In his last days in office, John Kerry (Ratney’s boss) delivered perhaps the most anti-Israel speech ever from a sitting secretary of state.
The question remains: Why has the Department of State, under Sec. Rex Tillerson, decided to designate John Kerry’s deputy as the man in charge of Israeli-Palestinian peace?
The State Department did not return a request for clarification on Ratney’s role in time for publication.
Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel