WASHINGTON When Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, announced that he would install Charles W. Freeman Jr. in a top intelligence post, the decision surprised some in the White House who worried that the selection could be controversial and an unnecessary distraction, according to administration officials.
Just how controversial the choice would be became clear on Tuesday, when Mr. Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush, angrily withdrew his name from consideration and charged that he had been the victim of a concerted campaign by what he called the Israel lobby.
Mr. Freeman had long been critical of Israel, with a bluntness that American officials rarely voice in public about a staunch American ally. In 2006, he warned that, left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them and enrage those who are not.Ě
He did not soften his tone even on Wednesday, saying in an interview that Israel is driving itself toward a cliff, and it is irresponsible not to question Israeli policy and to decide what is best for the American people.Ě
The critics who led the effort to derail Mr. Freeman argued that such views reflected a bias that could not be tolerated in someone who, as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, would have overseen the production of what are supposed to be policy-neutral intelligence assessments destined for the president's desk.
Some of Mr. Freeman's defenders say his views on Israel are extreme only when seen through the lens of American political life, and they asked whether it was possible to question American support for Israel without being either muzzled or marginalized.