The United States Senate has confirmed a fellow of a pro-Israel think-tank and former Pentagon official to assume the sensitive post of assistant secretary of state for near Eastern affairs.
David Schenker, the Washington Institute's Aufzien Fellow, was confirmed in his new post on Tuesday, making him the first non-diplomatic figure to take up the post since the 1990s.
Schenker’s appointment to a post that is supposed to be reserved for someone with some degree of impartiality in the Middle East, has caused much controversy with many deploring his staunchly pro-Israel stance.
Questions have also arisen about whether he’s qualified to take a diplomatic post, considering previous writings about the region which went to the extent of accusing global football association FIFA of affiliating itself with "terrorists" for example by allowing Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
“Between now and 2022, the relationship between senior Qatari Football Association officials and the US-designated Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas all but certainly will contribute to the deaths of dozens of innocent Israelis”, he wrote in a blog post for Times of Israel.
He claimed Qatar hosting the World Cup is equivalent to endorsing the deaths of 'innocent Israelis' and claimed Qatar is behind human rights abuses in the besieged Gaza Strip for “supporting Hamas”.
Israel has besieged Gaza for more than a decade, inducing a humanitarian crisis so large that rights groups fear the enclave will be uninhabitable by 2020. Qatar denies supporting Hamas beyond political mediation and providing aid to Gaza.
Schenker was nominated for his post last year by the hawkish US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the grounds that he would be an asset in the fight against what Washington perceives as an Iranian threat.
"David Schenker, the President’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, is held up," Pompeo told the State Department press corps at the time.
"While the humanitarian crisis continues and while Iran continues to undermine peace and stability throughout the Middle East."
Anticipating Hizballah war
In an interview with The Algemeiner, Schenker discussed the perceived threat from Hizballah’s tunnels under the Israel-Lebanon border, claiming war in Lebanon was 'inevitable'.
In the interview, he claimed a full blown war with the Lebanese group was “not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’”
The Washington Institute says it feels 'immense pride' that Schenker will be taking such an important diplomatic role in the US government.
"We feel immense pride knowing David will lead the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, bringing with him the balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East for which the Institute is known," said Washington Institute’s President Shelly Kassen and Chairman James Schreiber in a statement.
"We are confident in his ability to craft and execute policy that will promote peace and security to the US and its allies," they added.