Danny Danon, Israeli Ambassador To UN, Looks Back On His Past Five Years Of Service
In an online conversation earlier this week that was hosted by Matthew Bronfman, chair of the International Steering Committee of Limmud FSU, Israel's outgoing ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, reviewed his five years of service.
NEW YORK, NY, July 03, 2020 -- In an online conversation earlier this week that was hosted by Matthew Bronfman, chair of the International Steering Committee of Limmud FSU, Israel's outgoing ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, reviewed his five years of service and noted with satisfaction that he broke new ground by becoming the first Israeli ambassador to be elected to chair one of the United Nations' standing committees. "Future ambassadors to the UN can aspire to something similar."
Interviewed by the President of JCS International Michal Grayevsky, Danon, who before his ambassadorial posting had served as Israel's science minister and deputy defense minister, as well as deputy speaker of the Knesset (Israeli parliament), noted with great satisfaction that in a secret ballot, many UN members who publicly speak against Israel, actually voted for him to lead the Legal Committee.
Limmud FSU generally mounts peer-led, volunteer-based gatherings of Jewish learning that specifically reach out to Russian-speaking Jews around the world from Moscow to the US West Coast, and from Europe to Israel. Yet in a project initiated by Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, and produced by Limmud FSU deputy director Natasha Chechik, since the corona lockdown made physical conferences impossible, Limmud FSU has been providing digital e-learning opportunities on Jewish, general – and coronavirus – topics. Sessions have also been arranged by volunteer organizing committees of the festivals. These online gatherings are an opportunity for Russian-speaking Jews to learn – and be – together, virtually.
Indeed, comparing and contrasting diplomacy in the UN to the Israeli Knesset, Danon pointed out that "diplomacy is quiet and long term. Politicians want credit immediately for what they do, while diplomats should never take credit. In the Knesset people say negative things about you behind closed doors while in public they are nice to you; in contrast, in the UN, countries actually admire Israel quietly, while condemning it in public." Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, Danon noted, Israel has official relations with over 160, and quiet relations with many of the other states. "I have encouraged the leaders of these countries to stop hiding and publicly declare their relations with Israel," he said.
Where relations with such countries are concerned, Danon also noted, in response to a question from Matthew Bronfman, that while Israel is concerned but not fearful about the Iranian threat, "Gulf states are fearful." Precisely an important element of his work at the UN, he said, is ensuring that Iran not be allowed to become a strong promoter of instability, pointing to such positive signs of success as the decision by the German government to outlaw Hezbollah, "a proxy of Iran," and stressing that on this issue, too, Israel must work closely with the Gulf states.
There is clear interconnection between Israel's position in the UN and its relations with the US, stressed Danon, commenting that, "as long as we have the support of the US in the UN Security Council, we can be relaxed."
Turning his attention from the United Nations and international organizations to Israel, Danon was asked to comment on Israel's plans for annexing parts of the West Bank. "You cannot annex what is yours," he stated categorically; "we are extending Israeli sovereignty, in just the same way as Menachem Begin, in 1981, passed a law in the Knesset to advance Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. From whom would we be annexing parts of the West Bank?"
Acknowledging that Israel has "a dispute with the Palestinians," and that it welcomes negotiations to resolve that dispute, Danon argued that the Israeli government must make a decision about what it wants to do, and then deal with whatever international criticism might arise. "Most of the world is not dealing with the Middle East today," he noted; "countries are busy with the corona pandemic and the related economic crisis." Israel, he said, "must not take decisions based on what if or whether now is the right timing. The government must decide what it wants to achieve." It has, he suggested, a window of opportunity over the summer months to discuss and take a decision. "It must not be done in the immediate lead up to or first months after the November presidential elections in the US." Danon rejected suggestions that the government should take into consideration opposition from some groups of Diaspora Jewry. "World Jewry must respect Israeli democracy and our processes, even if they don't agree with what we are doing."
In response to a question by Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, Danon commented on the decision pending in the International Criminal Court on alleged crimes by Israel in the West Bank. "This is not a real tribunal," he said; "it's a political maneuver," pointing out that the court ignores atrocities around the world while examining issues related to Israel. President of Limmud FSU, Aaron G. Frenkel, also took part in the special meeting.
Summing up his five years in New York, Danon recalled with Limmud FSU co-founder, Sandy Cahn, that one of his first public appearances when he arrived at the UN was at a Limmud FSU New York Shabbaton, and it was with alacrity that he accepted an invitation to appear at the Limmud FSU non-virtual, annual festival in Israel, due to take place, corona virus situation permitting, in December.
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