Exclusive interview: What is Israeli ambassador’s greatest challenge?

 

MILWAUKEE – When asked if he could name the most challenging part of his job, the Israeli ambassador to the United States didn’t say all the traveling or the conflict or the politics.

No, he said the challenge is getting people to recall the facts.

Ron Dermer visited Milwaukee on Tuesday, June 5, when he spoke to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, met with Gov. Scott Walker and visited with Bader Philanthropies, much of it organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Israel Center of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

Dermer has visited points around the nation, he said in an exclusive interview with the Chronicle after his public speech. He said, “I’m Israel’s ambassador to the United States, not D.C. …. D.C. is not America.”

And in communicating with America, the challenge is getting his point across. “The challenge is to continue to explain and get the facts out and explain even basic things that people forget,” he said. “The challenge is to remember that they’re not following events the way we are following events.”

It’s why in his speech to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee he reminded his audience that Israel left Gaza in 2005, dismantling all of its settlements there.

“People are not following events closely,” he said. “What I ask of people is look at the facts. Hopefully it makes an impact. Hopefully you break through.”

His goal is to “try to get people to have a little historic perspective.”

Relations with American Jewry

Asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to roll back a plan to allow egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, Dermer said, “We have to find solutions to all those issues.”

He said that 100 generations have dreamed of having a Jewish state and only three generations have had it. Israel serves as a voice, a refuge and a shield, he said. He believes that when American Jews see a real threat to Israel, they rally around the Jewish state.

“At those moments you realize what’s at stake,” he said.

But he added that as Israel’s Jewish population has grown, now bigger than America’s, “it’s a different relationship.” He feels that “now Israel is actually the center, the hub.”

Dermer feels one of the greatest things the American Jewish community can do for Israel is to work on itself.

“Strengthen your Jewish community here,” he said.

Best part of the job

If the challenge of the job is getting people to remember the basics, what’s the best part?

Dermer said “it’s to have the opportunity to represent Israel in the land that I was born in.”

Also, he’s honored by the work he’s been asked to do.

“There is no more important alliance in the world for Israel than with the United States.”