Israel ambassador bullish on UN despite recent events

Israel Bonds hosts Dannon at meeting

By Aaron Greenberg
Special to the TJP

DALLAS — Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, spoke with optimism about his job when he met with 70 local supporters/investors of Israel Bonds last week.
“We are winning at the U.N.,” Danon said.
It’s a little surprising, considering how the agency has developed a reputation as being anti-Israel. In the past year, Danon said, the U.N. passed 22 resolutions against Israel, compared to one against Iran and one against Syria.
But Danon is looking at the big picture, and sees that there’s been movement in the right direction. Part of it could be his charm offensive. Another part is what Israel offers.
“Many other countries become friends with Israel not because they like us, but because they need us,” Danon said, citing the nation’s technological innovations. “It’s their own interest to work with Israel.”
Much of that optimism and technological success is owed to the strength of Israel Bonds, which have provided the Jewish state with an additional source of income since 1951. More than $1 billion has been raised for each of the past five years. Although not allocated for specific uses, the bonds have helped fund the infrastructure and economy to support the tech industry.
This region has become the epicenter of Israel Bonds outside of New York, according to Ken Goldberg, the national campaign advisory council chairman, who along with his wife Sherry hosted the event at their home.
It’s important to understand that Israel Bonds are not a charity, but an investment. For as little as $36, an investment can be made in Israel through the Development Corporation for Israel. The bonds are issued for two, three, five or 10 years. The Israeli government has never defaulted on payment.
“People think you have to have a lot of money to invest in Israel,” said Larry Olschwanger, the local campaign chair, shaking his head. “It’s not a donation. You get your money back plus interest.”
This area has been very generous. He said 75 people in the Dallas area invested more than $100,000 each last year, accounting for $20 million in sales.
“Dallas has a small group of Jews compared to other cities, but our numbers per capita are great,” he said.
Olschwanger said the area’s support for Israel Bonds have really blossomed over the past few decades under Karen Garfield, the executive director for the Southwest region. The region recently opened an office in Denver.
Ken Goldberg got involved in 1985 after a discussion at an event where his father-in-law was being honored in Omaha. He chatted with the local executive director.
“I said, ‘If you are ever in Dallas, give me a call,’” Goldberg said.
Sure enough, the director was transferred here three months later. Goldberg got involved with New Leadership, then helped coordinate a $10 million campaign in 1990. He still has the gas mask he got from a trip to Israel during the Gulf War. After some time away, he came back at Garfield’s request and became involved as local chair, working his way up.
Other attendees included Jason Schwartz, who is the chair of International New Leadership and a member of the national board, and former local Israel Bonds Chair Charles Pulman.
“It’s a great Jewish community and we have the love of many Christians in Dallas,” Danon said.
He called speaking to Israel Bonds investors a “win-win situation,” inspiring him and allowing him to share victories.
Danon was in town for a few days with his wife, Talie. They were given Texas-themed presents by Sherry Goldberg, including cowboy hats.
Before becoming Israel’s permanent representative to the U.N., Danon served as deputy minister of defense, deputy speaker and minister of science, technology and space. He served in the Knesset from 2009 to 2015.
Now that he’s busy at the U.N., he’s focused on winning new friends for Israel.
“Soft diplomacy is crucial to build relationships,” he said.
Two years ago, Danon took a group of ambassadors to see Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. In May, he’ll take them out for a celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday to see The Band’s Visit, about an Egyptian band that ends up in the middle of the Negev.
Danon is the chairman of the U.N.’s legal committee, making him the first Israeli to head one of the six major U.N. committees. As he pointed out, there were 44 “no” votes — and 56 majority Muslim nations.
Another sign of success was how the Saudis accepted his nation’s co-sponsorship of one of their resolutions. Usually, they reject Israeli overtones — at least in public.
“Publicly, they will say bad things about Israel, but privately they say they want to learn from Israel,” Danon said of Israel’s critics. “I’m working now to close the gap between the private U.N. and public U.N..”
He has also been unafraid to get attention. When the issue of Jerusalem resurfaced in December, Danon held a replica of a gold coin from the year 67 found in the City of David.
“It shows the connection between Jews and Jerusalem. No U.N. resolution can change this,” he said.
He gave replicas to his fellow ambassadors. (He also brought one to Dallas and gave it to Ken Goldberg.)
Danon pointed out that although they were outnumbered, dozens of countries voted with Israel or abstained, including Mexico, Argentina, Poland and Ukraine. He also noted some actual victories since he’s taken office.
For one thing, Yom Kippur has been named an official U.N. holiday. And when the U.N.’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia labeled Israel an “apartheid state” in a report, the report was not accepted, and the executive secretary of the commission resigned.
“You’ve changed so much of the landscape at the U.N.,” Sherry Goldberg said.
Danon returned the compliment, pointing to the support his country gets from Israel Bonds.
“I learned to appreciate that it’s much more than funding and money,” he said, citing the importance of the partnership. “It’s meaningful. In case of emergency, we have these people.”

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