January 22, 2019

Ambassador Dermer Talks About Israel’s Perils, Success

Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, made his Los Angeles speaking debut on Oct. 23 and conducted an oratorical master class for some 450 invited guests at Stephen Wise Temple.

Talking for well over an hour without referring to a single note, the 46-year-old native of Florida’s Miami Beach neatly divided his speech into two parts.

In the first segment, Dermer painted a grim picture of the dangers facing Israel in a hostile world, pointing to a rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, with Jews bearing the brunt of religion-motivated hate crimes.

But the greatest danger, he said, comes from Iran, which makes no secret of its intent to destroy the Jewish state. The ambassador lauded President Donald Trump for urging a rewrite or complete scuttling of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, signed by Iran, the United States and five other nations.

If Dermer — who was in town for three days — frequently sounded like a rebroadcast of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress two years ago, it was no coincidence. The diplomat served for four years as Netanyahu’s top foreign policy adviser and wrote many of his speeches. Actually, the ambassador’s role in persuading Republican leaders to invite the prime minister to address Congress — without notifying the White House — earned him a sharp rebuke from President Barack Obama’s administration.

The greatest danger, he said, comes from Iran, which makes no secret of its intent to destroy the Jewish state.

But Dermer remains unshaken in his belief that Iran “got the deal of the century” in negotiating the pact. He believes that Trump must fix it or walk away from it, sounding a line advocated by most Republican lawmakers.

Just as Dermer had his audience fretting about the existential threat to Israel’s survival, he shifted gears and spent the rest of his time talking about the nation’s impressive achievements.

Looking at Israel’s accomplishments — past, present and future — Dermer saw the Jewish state’s glass not only half full, but actually overflowing.

To back his case, Dermer noted that U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Israel as the world’s eighth-most powerful nation, with the top intelligence service on the planet and a three-tier defense system.

In a bow to Obama, Dermer thanked the former president for signing a 10-year military assistance treaty with Israel.

On the economic side, Dermer put Israel’s gross domestic product per capita into the same league as Japan and the nations of the European Union. He mentioned that Israel is leading the world in water conservation, with the country recycling 90 percent of its waste water, compared to 1 percent for the United States.

And he reminded audience members that not only has Israel prevented two dozen major terrorist attacks around the world, but the U.S. and most European countries look to Israel for advice on foiling terrorist attacks and in developing self-driving vehicles.

On the political scene, the optimistic ambassador predicted that “in a few years, Israel will overcome the international pressure exerted against the Jewish state.”

Looking at the past, Dermer argued that in previous centuries, Jews had to plead with others to protect them against hostile forces, but now Jews “are blessed to live in a sovereign state which can defend the Jewish people.”

In an odd way, Israel can thank the Arab states for boycotting Israeli exports, Dermer noted. Without the boycott, Israel would have focused on exporting low-tech goods to its neighbors, but, by necessity, the country developed a high-tech economy.

The generally favorable outlook for Israel’s future has allowed its famously tense and argumentative citizens to become more relaxed, he concluded.

“We used to say that Israelis go to New York to relax, but now Manhattanites unwind by visiting Tel Aviv.”