April 17, 2024
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Danny Ayalon: On the Challenges Facing Israel

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Danny Ayalon, was intensely questioned for his reaction and Israel’s response to President Barak Obama’s 2009 speech, where he clearly laid forth the foundation of U.S. policy towards Israel. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.” Ayalon said at that time that he and Israel were listening, and heard this repeated contention. Yet late last week, Ayalon told The Jewish Link of Bergen County that he does not consider this to be the major issue or challenge for Israel or peace in the Middle-East.

Just before leaving the United States for Mexico City, Ayalon told JLBC, “I would say the greatest challenge today is the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) movement and the campaign to delegitimize Israel, to isolate it politically, and hurt it economically. It’s part of the political war which the Palestinians wage against Israel after they realized that they can not take us on militarily. They try to really destroy us through a political warfare, which today is not less dangerous than the threat from Iran and what I see here—that these far and few isolated cases to boycott Israel which are now in fringe groups like the American Studies Association. If we do not stop it in time it can become the mainstream, just like it became in Europe. Twenty years ago the BDS movement in Europe was also fringe, but it became mainstream.”

Ayalon, who served as the Israeli Ambassador from 2002 to 2006, has been referred to as a controversial Israeli diplomat and politician more for his actions than his words. He has served as Deputy Foreign Policy Adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and to Ehud Barak, as well as Chief Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Until 2009, he was co-chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that encourages Aliyah, and until 2013 he served as Deputy Foreign Minister and represented the Yisrael Beiteinu party in the Knesset.

He was the Rennert Visiting Professor of Foreign Policy Studies at Yeshiva University and most recently founded the non-profit organization, “The Truth About Israel.” This last he said, uses social media to counter all the negative propaganda about his country.

Ayalon said these fringe groups have flourished because Israel has lost the message—one that goes back to Jewish rights and justice for the Jews, not just for the Palestinians. “The connection between the rights of Israel, Zion and the Jewish people, this has been lost.” Ayalon condemned the 1993 Oslo Agreement for legitimizing the PLO (Palestinian Libration Organization) which until then was considered a terrorist organization. “And secondly, it (Israel) stopped explaining itself and defending its rights. It talked about self-defense and not about Jewish rights.”

He said one of the results of this is that people consider the West Bank to be occupied (implying that it belongs to the Palestinian Authority) when it is actually disputed. Another fact the world ignores is that as a result of the 1948 war of Independence there are and have been 1.5 million Jews expelled and threatened in Arab countries.

“We have let the Palestinians play catch-up with us and we have let their lies go unanswered.” He said their lies are all over the social media and this is where young people get their information.

However it is social media and the ability for the people of Arab countries to hear more than just what their state’s political leaders and rabble rousers have told them which was the match that ignited what was called “the Arab Spring.”

“I would say the Arab Spring is a euphemism. It should really be called ‘The Islamic Winter,’ because what started as an authentic and spontaneous revolution against tyranny, against the abuse of human rights and minority rights and corruption was hijacked by the Islamists.” He said the young kids in the Tahrir Square really wanted change, but their movements were replaced by radical Moslems.

“You see that in Egypt, in Tunisia, everywhere, because the radical Moslems are well financed and very much more together. They get their support either from the Ayatollah in Iran if they are Shiites, from Hezbollah or even Hamas, or they get their support from the Al Qaeda jihad—including from Qatar and other governments, unfortunately.”

Despite laws passed in Europe and some legislative attempts in the United States impinging upon First Amendment Rights (make no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof (religion), which infringe on the rights of Jewish men to wear kippot, to perform the covenant of circumcision, to perform kosher slaughter of animals,  are all part and parcel of the BDS movement, yet Ayalon said he is optimistic.

“What we see is really the disintegration of the Arab world. That means strategically the potential of any war against any of the Arab countries is totally diminished, notwithstanding Iran. From a strategic point of view we do have a window to really concentrate on our own economy, equality, social problems, haredi problems, everything that from a tactical point of view, causes risks.”

Ayalon said with the disintegration of the Arab central regimes the void is being filled by Arab terror organizations. He said a lot of the Arab internal strife comes from the manner in which the Sykes-Picot Agreement carved the Ottoman Empire into the Arab countries, except for Egypt after World War I. He compared what is happening now to what happened with the Soviet Union—what was kept together by dictatorships fell apart. “It’s exactly the same type of process, except unlike the Soviet Union we have here political radical Islam which is trying to hijack the entire process.”

He said one of the reasons he sees the present Arab governments’ eventual self-destruction is because of the religious dissent between Shiite and Sunni, and even among the Sunni there is dissention among the Salafists, the Wahabists, and the Moslem Brotherhood as well as other splinter groups. There are ethnic disputes, tribal disputes, generational disputes such as in Egypt, ideological disputes. “It is one big mess that will take probably centuries to solve.”

In the meantime Ayalon said “We need to beef up our territorial security,” as Israel is continually being attacked from the Sinai, by Hezbollah or even from Lebanon or the Golan Heights.

One thing that all of these groups do have in common is the big lie, that Israel, Jews, do not belong to the land and that the land does not belong to Israel, that Jerusalem was never the capital of Israel and that it was not built by King David despite the proof found in the archeological digs. “There were never Jewish Temples—this is what the Palestinians are saying. These are the biggest lies.”

He said the second lie is that Israel is an aggressive belligerent country.  “If you see all the concessions that we have offered the Palestinians, not just now, I’m talking 70-80 years ago. The fact that they refused, for them it’s a zero sum game, the world unfortunately does not see what the facts and history shows.”

As to the anti-Israel movement which some Jews in this country have supported, Ayalon said he’s very disappointed. “It’s not that we shouldn’t be self-critical, I don’t think there’s any country that is more self-critical than Israel, we have the legal institutions, and we have the biting press. Any criticism from the outside I think is either naïve or misinformed or has ulterior motives. It’s not that we can not discuss everything. Every Jew has at least two or three opinions which is fine, but the fact that there are some Jews who actively join the political war against Israel, calling on boycotting Israel, joining our enemies, this is a red line and this is akin to treason…I don’t see any Palestinians second guessing their terrorizing methods.”

As to internal rancor and dissention, especially between the haredim and the government, Ayalon sees this also as a political war which can cripple Israel. He said the government should use consensus and not force. “We need to introduce science and math into the yeshivas so they (the students) can go to work but also we need to introduce more Yiddishkeit in the secular schools. There’s much more in common among us and short-sighted politicians are trying to gain support from their constituencies by attacking the other group. I think this is wrong. We need political reform. We need more unity, not uniformity but more unity.”

By Anne Phyllis Pinzow

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