Amos Hochstein. Biden's Israeli Envoy and the Gas for Peace Plan

Amos Hochstein's name has surfaced in his recent rounds to discuss Gaza's future "after Hamas," including the fate of gas off its coast.

Amos Hochstein (Reuters)

Amos Hochstein (Reuters)

In the heart of New York City, with a unique view of one of the four corners of the famous Central Park, stands the prestigious and extravagant The Pierre Hotel with its forty-four floors. From the world's biggest chefs and fashion designers to businessmen and royalty, the world's wealthy walk through the doors, but on a spring night in 2004, the hotel was on a date with a heavy guest from one of Africa's petty and forgotten dictatorships. Miguel Borrico, the prime minister of Equatorial Guinea, arrived to meet with an employee of the public and government relations firm Cassidy & Co., from his country of less than one million people, most of whom live in poverty, despite the oil content of its coasts.

Amos Hochstein didn't know much about Equatorial Guinea except what Google told him, but his well-known lobbyist firm entrusted him with the file of its generous client, dictator Teodoro Obiang, president of Equatorial Guinea since 1979 and the world's longest-serving president at the moment, so he sat down and listened to his prime minister, Boriko, anyway. Relations between Washington and Malabo were tense against the backdrop of Obiang's suspicions of the involvement of the administration of President George W. Bush in a failed coup attempt against him (1). Not to mention that the White House was embarrassed that its president appeared publicly with the dictator, and deprived him of the only picture of him with Bush during a closed meeting in 2002 (2).

The embarrassment was not surprising, as the world has long viewed Obiang as a "ruthless dictator", how not and the local radio (the only in the country) says that he is "in constant contact with God" and "it is the Lord Himself who gives him power" (3). Washington had stopped sending ambassadors to Malabo, the Guinean capital, since 1994 because of Obiang's actions, with Malabo accusing the US ambassador of witchcraft against the Guinean leader, just because he visited the graves of British officers in the capital in 1993 (4). "One of our staff members could hear the sounds of screaming because of torture in some places," another former ambassador said. To everyone's surprise, however, including the two former ambassadors, Washington's corridors opened to Obiang thanks to oil wealth, as well as to Hochstein's tireless efforts (5).

The "The Pier" meeting marked the beginning of a strong relationship between Hochstein and the coastal dictatorship, who paid Cassidy's company $120,2004 a month to address relations with the Bush administration. The door opened so quickly that Obiang himself might not have anticipated. A few months after Hochstein and Boriko met, Obiang was invited as a special guest at the 6 Leon Sullivan Prize for International Diplomacy ceremony after Condoleezza Rice, who began by praising Obiang. This was a shock to some, as the award is named after a man who fought against racism in the United States, and did not expect someone like Obiang to be invited to the ceremony, let alone a guest of honor (<>).

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang in 2006 (Reuters)

But none of the man's "shatah" was highlighted after Guinean oil flowed into the U.S. market, and part of its profits flowed to lobbyists in Washington. Obiang quickly got everything he wanted, including a photo with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2006 after a meeting in which she described him as a "good friend" (7), and then a photo three years later with President Obama (8), years in which Cassidy was described as operating as Equatorial Guinea's "shadow foreign ministry" (9).

Meanwhile, talk of Hochstein and his efforts to polish Obiang went viral, until the Washington Post interviewed him about his relationship with the dictator of Malabo, in which he was asked: "When you went to meet Obiang, didn't you think deep down that this man had done horrible things?" Hochstein replied: "No, I didn't think about it. Our meetings were friendly and practical, and he convinced me of his deep concern for his people, and I saw the change for myself. He sent 120 nurses from his country to Israel for training, and I saw children go to new schools" (10). The inauguration of relations with Tel Aviv was Obiang's way of gaining satisfaction in Washington, and we don't know if Hochstein played a role in this regard, but it wouldn't be surprising.

Amos Hochstein was not just a young American who quickly moved from lobbyists to the US State Department, but he is originally an Israeli born to Jewish American parents in the occupation state in 1973 (11), and served in the Israeli occupation army and entered its tanks as a combat soldier, before moving to the American capital and working in Congress with Democratic Party politicians, without hesitating to pass the interests of his first country from the folds of his official work in his second country (12). The opportunity to do so has come over and over again in recent years, appearing as a tireless sponsor of the maritime border demarcation agreement between Lebanon and Israel, and in recent rounds to discuss Gaza's "post-Hamas" future, including the fate of gas off its coast. However, Hochstein's presence in the Arab region far predates the "Al-Aqsa flood" and even the Second Intifada itself.

Source : Al Jazeera