WASHINGTON (JTA) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson retreated from his department’s commitment to fill the post of envoy to combat anti-Semitism, saying the effort may be more effective without one.
“One of the questions I’ve asked is, if we’re really going to affect these areas, these special areas, don’t we have to affect it through the delivery on mission at every level at every country?” Tillerson said in Congressional testimony Wednesday. “And by having a special envoy, one of my experiences is, mission then says, ‘oh, we’ve got somebody else that does,’ and then they stop doing it.”
Since Congress established the position with a 2004 law, the role of the envoy has been to train career State Department officers and diplomats in identifying and combating anti-Semitism and to encourage embassies and bureaus to more closely monitor anti-Semitism.
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the ranking Democrat on the foreign operations subcommittee, was appalled by the possibility of the position being eliminated.
“It is outrageous and offensive that Secretary Tillerson would even suggest appointing a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism is unnecessary,” she said in an email to JTA.