New Israel Ambassador to US Erdan optimistic about Biden presidency

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan working on a train. Erdan met US President Joe Biden on the train and discussed Israel-US relations.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

“The mainstream of the Democratic Party supports Israel,” Ambassador to US says.

Israel Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan said on Thursday that he was confident US President Joe Biden a friend of Israel.
“I think we can expect years of expanding cooperation to even more areas beyond the existing ones,” Erdan told Kan Bet. “I think there is a strong basis for optimism.”
Erdan, who serves as Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, took up the role of Israeli ambassador to the US on Wednesday, replacing longtime ambassador Ron Dermer.
Erdan recounted meeting Biden on a train to Washington in 2013. “I happened to coincidentally meet him on the train to Washington,” he said. “We had a very long conversation about his relationship with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and the State of Israel, which runs very deep.”
The ambassador’s hopefulness went beyond Biden himself, with Erdan pointing out Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken’s testimony to Congress. Blinken talked about the US commitment to Israel’s security and prospects for expanding the Abraham Accords, in which four Arab states normalized ties with Israel.
“In talks I have had with factors in the Democratic Party and members of Congress, the mainstream of the Democratic Party supports Israel very much,” Erdan said. “They understand that we are an asset to the US and have shared values.”
When it comes to the Iran nuclear deal, Erdan said that Israel will not bend on its position that a return to the 2015 agreement – which Biden will pursue if Iran is willing to return to strict compliance with its terms – would be dangerous.
“Israel and the prime minister see the nuclear abilities of the ayatollahs’ regime as an existential danger to Israel’s future,” he said. “On this topic there are no compromises and no politics. We say our position in the clearest way.”
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “is a disaster, because it gives legitimacy for Iran to have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon in a few years,” the ambassador explained. “To return to this agreement and then hope to negotiate a new agreement with Iran for greater and longer enforcement is hopeless. Iran will have no reason to pursue a new agreement.”
At the same time, Erdan added, “not every disagreement is necessarily a crisis.”
He said that “Israel will always support a diplomatic solution if possible, and an agreement that we think will block Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities.”
While Israel has already appointed an envoy to Washington, Biden’s choice of ambassador to Israel remains unclear.
The president was said to be considering bringing back Dan Shapiro, who was ambassador to Israel for five years under president Barack Obama. Dennis Ross, a perennial envoy to the region involved in Israel-Palestinian talks in the past, is also said to be under consideration.
Other possible candidates for ambassador are former members of Congress Robert Wexler of Florida or Steve Israel of New York, as well as Michael Adler, a Biden fundraiser and longtime friend of the president.
Another reported name was Amos Hochstein, the Obama administration’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. Hochstein was born and raised in Israel and served in the IDF, and has been frequently interviewed in the Israeli media about Biden in recent months.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations held a goodbye event for Ron Dermer on Wednesday.
Among the well-wishers was Netanyahu, who said that “among some of the extraordinary people who served in that post [of ambassador to the US], none has been better than Ron Dermer. What he did for Israel, what he did for the US-Israel alliance, what he did for all of us is something that is not widely known. He fought for Israel’s interests, whether it be on questions like Iran, which was terrifically important for our future survival, to bringing Jonathan Pollard home... [and] peace treaties that have changed history. Ron has been a crucial and central figure in all these efforts and so many others. I cannot begin to list them.”
The prime minister expressed hope that Dermer will “find a way to continue to use his enormous talents for the future of our people and our state for the American-Israel alliance.”
UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba, with whom Dermer became close during their tenure in Washington when both countries expressed deep concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, also recorded a video message. Both ambassadors were instrumental in launching the Abraham Accords.
“You can go back home now with a huge accomplishment under your belt,” Otaiba said. “The Abraham Accords will change dynamics and the trajectory for our region, and you are partly responsible for that. I look forward to working with you and seeing you and continuing our friendship wherever we end up. You will always have a friend in me.”
In his remarks to the Presidents’ Conference, Dermer said the highlight of his time in Washington was when Netanyahu spoke out against the Iran deal before both houses of Congress in 2015, which was emblematic of what Dermer felt is the role of an ambassador in a sovereign Jewish state.
“Being a Jewish community, no matter how strong and how influential – it’s not the same as Jewish sovereignty, a priceless possession we have, which means we have a voice, we have a shield, and we have a refuge,” Dermer said. “A voice means not being silent. We didn’t have that 80 years ago. We had to beg other people to make our case for us.”
Dermer brought the example of Polish diplomat Jan Karski, who brought news of the Nazi concentration camps in Poland to the allies.
“For me to be an ambassador… [means] you’re that voice, and you have to raise that voice as a critical time and if you don’t do it, you’re derelict in your duty… When as ambassador, I have the privilege to go on CNN and speak up on behalf of the Jewish people, I am always conscious of the fact that 80 years ago, Jews really didn’t have a voice,” Dermer said.
When Iran “openly vows and works to destroy us,” Israel must make its case, Dermer added, quoting Netanyahu: “The days in which Jews will be passive in the face of those who seek to annihilate us are over.”

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