June 13, 2024
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Future US, UN Ambassador Erdan Ready to Defend Annexation to the World

The minister, who has held multiple cabinet posts at once, says he is up for the job of shuttling between New York and Washington to represent Israel.

Less than a week after Gilad Erdan accepted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to be ambassador to the U.N. and the U.S., he is already hard at work preparing for the job.

On the way to the Knesset to be sworn in with the government on Sunday as regional cooperation minister, a temporary post until he heads to New York in about a month, Erdan talked to the Jerusalem Post about the meetings he had planned with experts at various think tanks to learn more about the topics at hand.

“It’s a big job,” Erdan admitted, speaking of the dual ambassadorship, which no Israeli has held since Abba Eban in 1950-1959. “In any position, I make sure to listen and meet with people first.”

At the top of the diplomatic agenda these days is the possibility that Israel will apply sovereignty to about 30% of the West Bank, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley, in accordance with U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

“In the first months, it will be very important,” Erdan said of annexation. “On the one hand, we have to be prepared if a decision is made in Israel—and I hope there will be—to apply sovereignty on Israeli settlements. On the other, we have to check all the time that we are fully coordinated with the U.S. government and our other allies as much as possible.”

Erdan took pains to emphasize that he is still a politician and a cabinet minister, so he can speak more freely now and does not have to say exactly what the government decides. After 25 years in politics, including 17 as an MK, he will have to make the shift to representing someone else’s view when he becomes ambassador.

“We promised it to our voters,” Erdan said of annexation. “I believe in it with all my heart that we have a biblical and legal right to Judea and Samaria. It cannot be that the citizens of Israel who live there have to live under a military government just because the Palestinians have refused to reach a compromise with us for decades.

“That’s how I view the ‘Deal of the Century.’ As a politician, I say we have to aim to fulfill it.”

If Israel proceeds with annexation, Erdan expressed confidence that he can represent and defend the policy well.

“I have the background and prepared the infrastructure [as strategic affairs minister] to protect Israel from BDS, anti-Semites and Israel-haters,” he said. “I assume these talents and my knowledge will prepare me for criticism coming from our rivals and adversaries.”

Erdan acknowledged that “There are also friendly countries who don’t agree with us, and we have to know how to respond to everyone and defend our decision.”

Another important diplomatic element of annexation is that it is happening with a green light from the Trump administration.

“As the prime minister is careful to say, we have to do it in full coordination with the U.S. government. They are our central ally,” he said.

If annexation happens in the coming months, as the coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White allows it to, Erdan will be ambassador to the U.N. and not to the U.S. at that point.

Erdan is expected to replace current Ambassador Danny Danon as soon as possible in terms of bureaucracy and diplomatic protocol. He will become ambassador to the U.S. six months later, with Ambassador Ron Dermer remaining in Washington, D.C., until after November’s presidential election.

Danon and Dermer are known not to get along, a problem that will be avoided when one person has both of their jobs.

But Erdan said he looks forward to having six months to observe Dermer.

Dermer “is one of the smartest people I know, and I have a lot to learn from him,” Erdan said. “In the first months, until I’m supposed to replace him, I will try to learn as much as possible from him and work in full coordination with him.”

Erdan will be ambassador to the U.N. for three years, with an option to extend for a fourth year. Part of his agreement with Netanyahu is that the staff of the Israeli Embassy to the U.N. will increase.

Eleven months after he becomes ambassador to the U.S., the coalition agreement states Defense Minister Benny Gantz will replace Netanyahu as prime minister and has the option of installing someone new in Washington, though he is not required to do so. If the new government lasts more than three years, and Netanyahu returns as prime minister, their agreement states that Erdan will return to Washington for the additional nine months of Netanyahu’s term.

The back-and-forth between being ambassador to the U.S. or not seems a bit messy, but many others in Likud have it worse. One minister after another made the pilgrimage to Netanyahu’s residence in recent days, only to get scraps of ministries that have been divided between them. Some veteran MKs, with high rankings in Likud primaries, have been left without any cabinet positions. Erdan made a political calculation that gave him two prestigious, high-profile positions, while removing himself from the political acrimony in his party.

Erdan is aware of the questions many have asked as to how he can juggle both demanding ambassadorships at the same time. But he was confident that he is up to the challenge, citing that he has held more than one cabinet portfolio at once. For example, in the last five years, he was public security minister and strategic affairs minister.

“I know how to work around the clock,” he said.

Erdan also has eight years of experience as a member of the security cabinet.

“It makes a dramatic difference,” Erdan said. “I know all about the Iran nuclear threat and what comes with it and about the topic of BDS and antisemitism. I plan to focus on these matters in the U.S., but also around the world. It is without a doubt one of the central topics.”

The soon-to-be ambassador said his attitude is that the job is “not just in the hallways of the U.N. and of governments.”

“It should also include civil society organizations, and I will continue the work I did to bring in networks of legal experts, digital-media experts and Jewish organizations,” he said. “This is the infrastructure of the Jewish world that helps and supports Israel. I see myself as a bridge between them and the government of Israel.”

Erdan said he sees the ambassadorships as a “great privilege” and that he and his family are excited about it.

“I think that serving at our greatest and most significant ally and getting to know U.S. Jewry, with their great contribution to strengthening Israel, along with having the privilege to fight for Israel’s rights and expose the hypocrisy in the U.N., is very exciting,” Erdan said.

As for U.S. Jewry, he added: “I will be happy to provide any help and cooperation, because I very much believe all Jews are responsible for one another, and I am coming to work with everyone.”

By Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post

 

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