TEL AVIV—John Bolton, while serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went behind his boss’s back to supply Israel with crucial information on American plans at the UN and redirect U.S. policy.
That’s according to Israel’s former UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, and former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who spoke to The Daily Beast on Tuesday. Bolton’s past, especially his controversial tenure at the UN, has come under fresh examination since President Trump named him to be his next national security advisor.
Gillerman served as Israel’s ambassador to the UN in 2006 when Bolton was U.S. ambassador and told The Daily Beast that “in more than one case, Ambassador Bolton called me and alerted me to the fact that his mission—the United States mission to the UN—was about to vote against Israel and asked that I alert the prime minister, who at that time was Ehud Olmert.”
Gillerman added, “In more than one case the prime minister called the president, who was then George W. Bush, and got him to overrule the State Department.”
Bolton would regularly reach out regarding positions being debated by the U.S. government, Gillmerman said. But the “most striking” example came in August 2006 when the UN Security Council was considering Resolution 1701, with the purpose of ending a month-long war between Israel and the Islamist militant group Hezbollah, operating in southern Lebanon.
One night, Bolton warned the Israelis what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was planning.
“In that case John Bolton got in touch with me at about 8 o’clock in the evening, which was 3 in the morning in Israel, calling to say ‘You have to call your prime minister and tell him that Condi Rice sold you out to the French.’”
Israel and Lebanon do not have diplomatic relations so during the negotiations, Gillerman said, “the French government was representing Lebanon and the United States were representing us, and the French resolution was totally unacceptable to Israel.”
“I woke the prime minister up at 3 a.m. Israel time, and that actually brought about a total change in the final resolution,” Gillerman said, but declined to elaborate what aspects of the resolution were changed.
Olmert corroborated Gillerman’s account in a telephone interview (though he said Gillerman contacted a staffer who transmitted the information to him). Bolton’s assistance to Israel is also mentioned in In the First Person, (B’Guf Rishon) Olmert’s autobiography released last week, the former prime minister said.
In her 2011 autobiography, Rice said she learned “several years later” that “Bolton had been sharing information with the Israelis through their U.N. ambassador without permission to do so. That practice had backfired, as the Israeli ambassador was one step behind the discussions between the White House and the prime minister’s office.”
Responding to Rice’s comment in 2011, Bolton told The Daily Beast: “Of course I kept the Israelis informed about the state of play in the negotiations. That’s how you treat close allies.”
Bolton did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Olmert and Gillerman also corroborated long-held rumors about Bolton’s habit of ignoring protocol, disregarding hierarchy and making end runs around Rice, who, according to the New York Times last week, refused the entreaties of then-Vice President Dick Cheney to appoint Bolton as her deputy when she took over the State Department in 2005.
Instead, Bush nominated Bolton to be U.N. ambassador but was rebuffed by the Republican-controlled Senate. Bush used a congressional recess to appoint Bolton to the UN post, where he stayed a little more than a year.
“Mr. Bolton clashed regularly with Ms. Rice and, after leaving office, broke with Mr. Bush over what he saw as weak-kneed policies on North Korea and Iran,” the Times reported.
Gillerman says “the Bolton story is there were sometimes disagreements between the State Department and the White House and about how the United States should act towards Israel or regarding UN resolutions that interested Israel.”
Gillerman declined to divulge details of what he and Bolton discussed, only to say “Bolton was working in a very positive way.”
“He was doing his job but at the same time looking out for the interests of Israel,” Gillerman said. “When he felt that the State Department held an unfavorable position he alerted me and we [Israel’s mission to the UN] alerted the National Security Council and the then the President—and changed it.”
Olmert said that Bolton “was and is an excellent friend to Israel.”
Bolton served at the UN for 16 contentious months marked by repeated clashes with other diplomats and eventually fell out with Bush over the Iraq war, accusing the president of “a total intellectual collapse” in 2008. Bush dismissed Bolton as “not credible.”
Since then, Bolton has spent his career as an analyst on Fox News and as a resident at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.