I had the distinct honor and privilege of interviewing Mr. Ishmael Khaldi, pictured at right, Israel’s first Muslim diplomat.
Born in a Bedouin tent in northern Israel he was the third of eleven children. He tended sheep there and called it his home until the age of eight. He holds a Masters Degree in political science from Tel Aviv University. It was then he decided to join the Israeli diplomatic corps where he worked his way up the ranks and became the vice counsel general for Israel in San Francisco.
Khaldi spent three years back and forth between the states of California, Oregon and Washington and his native Israel. He has served in the Israel Police and also as a political analyst for the Israel Defense Forces.
He is an Israeli citizen.
Now he commutes between Jerusalem and the Israeli consulate in Tel Aviv where he is in charge of Arab-Israeli affairs and still makes trips to the United States for outreach and diplomacy. He was in the states just last week.
Khaldi sees his combination of being a Muslim but also an Israeli as a unique “bridge” diplomatically between the Jews, Muslims and Israelis. He is confident he brings to the table excellent diplomatic skills which result in forging new and better relationships between the Palestinians and Israelis.
When questioned about the possibility of the UN granting Palestine statehood, Mr. Khaldi stated he doesn’t believe that Hamas will go along with it because they have their own “agenda” that doesn’t necessarily coincide with the UN’s. He sees the only way peace will eventually be achieved between the Israelis and Palestinians is through negotiation, that no amount of force or will by others will make it happen.
I asked him about the intention of Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to indict Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman on charges of fraud, money laundering and harassing a witness. He had no comment except this is not his “territory.”
Mr. Khaldi is proud of the opportunities Israel provides for Muslim women that many other countries surrounding her do not, the right to drive a vehicle for one. Israel also has a Muslim judge.
Khaldi wrote this article for the San Francisco Chronicle in March of 2009 during Israeli Apartheid week and had this to say:
You are part of the problem, not part of the solution: [emphasis his]. If you are really idealistic and committed to a better world, stop with the false rhetoric. We need moderate people to come together in good faith to help find the path to relieve the human suffering on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Vilification and false labeling is a blind alley that is unjust and takes us nowhere.
You deny Israel the fundamental right of every society to defend itself: [emphasis his.] You condemn Israel for building a security barrier to protect its citizens from suicide bombers and for striking at buildings from which missiles are launched at its cities – but you never offer an alternative. Aren’t you practicing yourself a deep form of racism by denying an entire society the right to defend itself?
Thank you Mr. Khaldi for being a part of “the solution.”
Crossposted at Conservative Outlooks