Israel could see political fallout in wake of Hamas attack, Emanuel says

“You’ve got to look at history in Israel,” Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor now serving as ambassador to Japan, told the Sun-Times. “It’s pretty clear how the public reacts ... when it comes to protecting Israel.”

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President Joe Biden talks with Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, after Biden arrives at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Iwakuni, Japan on Thursday. Biden is attending the G-7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

Ambassador Rahm Emanuel greets President Joe Biden in Japan in May, as Biden arrived for the G-7 Summit in Hiroshima.

Susan Walsh/Associated Press

The intelligence failure that “blindsided” Israel and allowed Hamas to launch its surprise attack is “shocking” for a 75-year-old country with a “well-earned reputation for a security apparatus,” former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday.

Now U.S. ambassador to Japan, Emanuel hinted strongly public anger over an intelligence failure that allowed an “unnecessary” and “horrific loss of life on both sides” would ultimately cost the political leadership in Israel. However, he never mentioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name.

“You’ve got to look at history in Israel. It’s pretty clear how the public reacts — from the formation of the state of Israel going back to ’48 and forward — when it comes to protecting Israel. It’s a sine qua non [essential condition]. That’s where your measurement” of success or failure lies, Emanuel told the Sun-Times.

Emanuel’s father, an Israeli immigrant, served in a paramilitary Zionist militia. The family’s last name was changed to Emanuel, which means “God with us” in Hebrew. The name change honored his uncle Emanuel Auerbach, who was killed in 1933 in an altercation with Arabs in Jerusalem.

As a child, Emanuel spent summers in Israel. He served a volunteer stint during the first Gulf War as part of an Israeli military program for civilians.

The Sun-Times asked him how a country that prides itself on the intelligence gathering, covert operations and counterterrorism capability of the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency — along with its Iron Dome aerial defense system — could have been caught so off guard.

“Everybody is shocked” by that failure, he said. “People are gonna be scratching their heads for a long time to uncover whether they saw things and didn’t connect them [or] didn’t see things [because] they had a blind faith in their technological superiority as well as human intelligence.”

Palestinians evacuate wounded after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on Oct. 12, 2023.

Palestinians evacuate wounded after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on Thursday.

Hatem Ali/Associated Press

President Joe Biden has asked Congress to authorize $106 billion in federal funding for Israel and Ukraine. But that unprecedented request can’t be considered until the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives settles on a new speaker.

A former North Side congressman who helped to engineer the 2006 Democratic takeover of the U.S. House, Emanuel argued Republicans have a “responsibility that comes with being in majority” to resolve their internal differences and get on with the nation’s business.

“The world relies on America as kind of a guarantor of some sense of order. And you can’t have, behind the lines, this level of disorder if you’re going to … be responsible and accountable for ensuring that the world doesn’t spin off its axis,” Emanuel said.

Foreign diplomats are normally constrained by the administrations they serve.

Emanuel has thrown that verbal girdle out the window.

He has pressured Japan to legalize gay marriage, recording a video on the subject that got 8 million views on social media.

After the disappearance of China’s foreign minister, he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “President Xi’s cabinet lineup is now resembling Agatha Christie’s novel, ‘And Then There Were None.’ First, Foreign Minister Qin Gang goes missing, then the Rocket Force commanders go missing, and now Defense Minister Li Shangfu hasn’t been seen in public for two weeks. Who’s going to win this unemployment race? China’s youth or Xi’s cabinet?”

On Monday, Emanuel made no apologies for pushing the envelope.

“The president has made advocating for gays and lesbians across the globe … a priority of our foreign policy. I was, as the U.S. ambassador, speaking up for not only a principle the president advocated, but where he also created an office in the State Department. Did I do it with a little bit of Rahm flair? Yeah, I did … I did it with some emphasis, put some volume behind it,” Emanuel said.

“China said that our armed forces were responsible for the fires in Maui. False. China said that our armed forces started COVID. False. … The defense minister, I said, was missing. That is true. He is still missing. Nobody knows where he is. That’s a fact.”

Emanuel said he has operated on an overriding principle: It is “better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”

It came in handy on the day he rushed to deliver a speech not yet written, let alone cleared with the State Department, underscoring U.S. support for Ukraine two weeks after the Russian invasion.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Japan had spoken at the Japan National Press Club and was being followed by the Russian ambassador. Emanuel was not about to let Russia get in the last word.

“If I had sat and waited for approval, I’d probably still be waiting right about now,” he said.

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