Ambassador addresses state of Israel, Middle East

Dermer talks ‘good, bad, ugly’ of region at Israel Bonds meeting

Photo: Grant Miller Photography (Left to right) Ambassador Ron Dermer and Israel Bonds Dallas Chair Larry Olschwanger

By Ben Tinsley

DALLAS — The good. The bad. And the ugly.
This is not in reference to the epic 1966 spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.
No, these were three areas of change to Israel and the Middle East outlined by Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, during a speech at Congregation Shearith Israel on Tuesday, May 31.
Dermer was speaking before an audience of nearly 400 people at this high security evening hosted by Israel Bonds Dallas. Event chairs were Jeri and Bill Finkelstein and Janine and Charles Pulman.
The event attracted former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, who registered to attend, and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who addressed the audience after Dermer.
Also in the audience was AIPAC National President Lillian Pinkus, whom Dermer singled out and asked to stand and be recognized (to much applause) before the beginning of his speech.
In all, $3 million of investment in Israel was raised during the event, Karen Garfield, executive director of the Southwest Region of Israel Bonds, confirmed Thursday, June 2.
Before the ambassador began his comments, Israel Bonds Dallas Chair Larry Olschwanger presented Dermer with a black cowboy hat from the Larry Mahan Collection.
Dermer donned the hat, took a photo with Larry Olschwanger, then took it off and placed it back under the podium.
Then Dermer began his speech.

The bad

Dermer outlined the turbulent changes to the Middle East during this portion of his speech.
“An entire region has collapsed,” he said.
Iran’s revolution gave birth to a Shiite dynamic that continues to impact the entire region — bringing together radical Islamic forces unseen since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
The British and French divided up the region 100 years ago, creating artificial states that have ceased to exist. Dictatorial regimes have resurfaced to rule those states.
In many areas, religion, ethnic community, tribe and family have overshadowed the state as the nexus of power.
Radical Islamic factions view Islamic rule as the solution to any problems in the region. Sunni and Shiite extremists are slaughtering each other.
Some of the greatest sufferers from this wave of radical Islam may be Muslims, he said.
This was bad enough news when these factions were in full effect a hundred years ago. But now, with 21st-century weaponry, the situation could very well be catastrophic.
“The greatest danger that faces all of us is that the possibility that militant Islam — whether it’s Sunni or Shiite — will (acquire) a nuclear weapon. That’s the game changer in the war. … We need to make sure Islamic (factions) don’t arm themselves with nuclear weapons.”
Dermer referenced the effects of the Iran Nuclear Deal, which he said has made Iran “richer and more dangerous” than they ever were before.
The biggest problem with the Iran Nuclear Deal is that it does not permanently block Islamic access to nuclear weapons, he said.
“It only places temporary constraints on Iran’s nuclear program,” Dermer said. “The price is they automatically remove (those constraints) in a few years. I know a decade might see like a long time but it is the blink of an eye in the life of a nation.”

The ugly

Discrimination against Jews is once again on the rise.
“Anti-Semitism is back and its coming back with a vengeance,” Dermer said. “The only thing that should surprise any of us about it is that we are surprised.”
The ambassador pointed out that anti-Semitism has been part of a historic pattern for centuries.
But that pattern was completely offset by the sheer volume of Jews killed during the Holocaust — 6 million Jews, a third of the Jewish people.
Dermer said the Holocaust was such a powerful force, it “knocked all the stars out of the sky.”
“The 50-year period after the Holocaust, when it was politically incorrect to go after Jews?” he asked. “That period was the aberration.”
Remove the Holocaust from the equation and the consistent century-upon-century pattern of anti-Semitism and mass slaughter of Jews reasserts itself, the ambassador said.
As a result of the Holocaust, other monsters who slaughtered Jews in the past have been lost to history, Dermer said.
“Hitler blocked everyone out,” he said.
And even hate can evolve, Dermer said: Anti-Semitism against Jews has morphed into anti-Semitism against the Jewish state.
“This is something that is new,” he said. “In a sense the irony is the founders of Zionism believed the birth of Israel was going to actually end anti-Semitism.”
A strong example of anti-Semitism against the state of Israel is the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, he said.
Dermer said a good litmus test for this kind of anti-Semitism is to see if boycotters targeting Israel include it on a list with other countries. The ambassador said he would be willing to engage and have dialogue with whoever is calling for the boycott and try to explain to them the true faith and nature of Israel.
“At least I would know I am dealing with people of principle,” he said. “But if I find out there is a church group or academic society or another such group that has decided to single out Israel among other nations, I will realize I am dealing with anti-Semitism and I will not engage.”
It is important to make this distinction when dealing with this form of anti-Semitism, the ambassador said.
“I will delegitimize those who would delegitimize me and that is the approach all of us should take when dealing with anti-Semitism,” he said.

The good

There are a lot of good things happening with Israel.
“A ranking came out a few months ago — and of the most powerful countries in the world, Israel was ranked eighth,” he said.
Dermer said Israel’s military is growing stronger and stronger.
“We are drastically improving our offensive capabilities and our defensive capabilities,” he said. “We have developed an Iron Dome that has worked really well under really difficult conditions — it knocked out 90 percent of the missiles fired at us.”
Israel is going to be the first nation outside the United States to have an operational fifth-generation aircraft, Dermer said, adding that there have been great recent strides in the technology and use of long-range rockets.
In terms of innovation, the ambassador said Israel is the veritable center of the planet, second only to Silicon Valley.
Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert voiced the same sentiment when he took the stage after Dermer to address the reasons he believed members of the audience should invest in Israel Bonds.
“You see an entrepreneurial spirit that is unmatched anyplace in the world — with the possible exception of Silicon Valley,” Mayor Leppert said.
During his comments, Ambassador Dermer observed that the strength of Israel’s democracy is quite formidable.
“Democracies are tested under fire,” Dermer said. “They are tested under whether they held their values under difficult conditions. Not when it was easy, when it was hard. … We upheld our values under the most extreme conditions, being the most endangered democracy on earth.”
Dermer said he was proud Israel has a free, “rambunctious” parliament; a free, “adversarial” press; a strong supreme court; and equal rights for women and gays.
“This is Israel and we should remember this when everyone is attacking the ‘demise of Israel democracy,’” he said. “The strength and resilience of Israel democracy is something future generations will marvel at.”
It is undeniable that Israel has staunch supporters. For instance, earlier in the day before his evening speech, Ambassador Dermer met with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The governor thanked Dermer for Israel’s continued partnership with Texas and assured him the state will continue to stand alongside Israel against terrorism. He also discussed a letter he sent to 49 other governors urging them to establish or strengthen state-based sanctions against Iran.
During his Israel Bonds speech, the ambassador observed that Israel now provides the Jewish people something they didn’t always have — a voice and a refuge, he said.
“We must never forget: The Jewish people don’t have to beg other people to defend us,” he said. “After 2,000 years of being powerless the Jewish people can defend themselves. Israel gives Jews the ability to defend themselves in the battlefield and in the courts of popular opinion.”

Abbott meets with Israeli ambassador, urges strengthening sanctions against Iran

Contributed report

AUSTIN — Governor Greg Abbott met with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer in Dallas, where he thanked the ambassador for Israel’s continued partnership with Texas and assured him that the Lone Star State has stood, and will continue to stand, with Israel against terrorism.
During the meeting, Governor Abbott also discussed a letter he sent today to 49 other governors urging them to establish or strengthen state-based sanctions against Iran. In his letter, Governor Abbott emphasized that Texas is “absolutely committed” to maintaining sanctions against Iran. Further, the governor stated that there is more Texas can and will do to ensure that the nation does not receive taxpayer-funded subsidies from the Lone Star State.
“Because the Iran Deal is fundamentally flawed and does not permanently dismantle Iran’s nuclear capability, Texas will maintain its sanctions against Iran,” Governor Abbott wrote.
Additionally, Governor Abbott signed a letter May 31 rejecting efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The letter reaffirms Texas’ support for Israel and condemns the BDS movement as “incompatible with the values” of Texas and the United States.

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