Israeli ambassador addresses Metro Detroit crowd.
Expressing optimism for the future, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said that after 70 years of existence, Israel’s innovational advances and growing prominence on the global stage show the world that the Jewish people are no longer “the perfect victim but instead have created an imperfect sovereign nation.”
Speaking to an audience of 600 June 4 at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Dermer, the first sitting Israeli ambassador to visit Detroit in 20 years, said world Jewry should be grateful and proud of Israel’s accomplishments as well as two recent historic decisions made by the United States: moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal. Dermer stressed American Jews should celebrate these decisions regardless of their political affiliation.
“Today, because of recent news, Israel is overflowing with optimism,” Dermer said. “Reports that Israel is continually isolated globally is certainly fake news. Israel boasts diplomatic, social, economic and academic relations with China, India, Japan and (countries in) Africa. Israel has 10 times the population it did in 1948, but it has less water scarcity because we have pioneered and continued to improve techniques in water desalination and conservation. These are technologies Israel is proud to share with our diplomatic partners.”
Dermer pointed to the resilient vibrancy of the Motor City and the generosity of the Jewish community. He made special note of the late Max Fisher’s legacy of philanthropy to the Jewish state and commended the renewal of the automotive industry here and the existing and fledgling relationships being made with some of the 500 Israeli startup companies dedicated to autonomous vehicle research and development and manufacturing.
Though Dermer commended former President Barack Obama’s administration’s in signing a 10-year, $38 billion arms deal with Israel in 2016, he added that Israel, as well as Americans, should be thankful that President Donald Trump pulled out of the JCPOA and said that sanctions and pressures need to be put back in place against Iran.
“I know that for years there have been good people on both sides of (the Iran nuclear deal), and if this was a deal that truly prevented Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Israel would have supported it,” Dermer said. “Instead, three years later, we no longer have to theorize. Since the sanctions have been lifted, $100 billion from oil sales flow into Iran’s coffers every 18 months. This goes into fueling wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and firing missiles into Israel (from Syria).
“And within the terms of the JCPOA, any constraints to Iran enriching uranium for a nuclear weapon would be lifted in 10 years. That may seem like a long time, but in the life of a nation, it is the blink of an eye. Take it from your ally in the Middle East — the region has been no safer as a consequence of this deal.”
As far as the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Dermer said not since the Balfour Declaration and Israel declaring independence in 1948 has there been a bigger milestone for Israel, Zionism and, ultimately, the hope for peace in the region.
“This move solidifies the recognition and legitimacy of the Jewish people’s deep historical connection to Jerusalem,” Dermer said. “For 2,000 years, (rebuilding) Jerusalem existed in the imaginations of Jews. This move proves to the world, not by might, but by right, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”
Dermer stressed that right now there are more Jews living in Israel than America, and the two populations comprise 80 percent of world Jewry.
In the face of increasing global anti-Semitism and the presence of the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement, Dermer said it is essential that the bonds between these two populations continue to strengthen.
To improve this relationship, Dermer acknowledged that Israeli policy and the religious right’s dominance in Israel should be challenged so that Israel remains a place where “all Jews, regardless of their religious denomination, can call home.”
In America, Dermer said that Jews should learn their Jewish and Israeli history so they can put current events in the Middle East in better context.
“For too long, Palestinians have tried to delegitimize the Jews’ historic connection to Jerusalem and Israel by calling us colonizers,” Dermer said. “But we are not foreign colonizers the way the Belgians were in the Congo or the British were in India. If you learn Jewish history and understand the Jewish connection to Israel and Jerusalem, the scaffolding of lies will collapse. If you learn Jewish history, you understand how precious the state of Israel is.
“The Jewish people are no longer that perfect victim; we are a proud nation. And we make mistakes like any imperfect sovereign nation. To be pro-Israel today, you can still criticize its policies, yet at the same time, you have to give Israel the benefit of the doubt.”