Danny Ayalon Says Goodbye to Public Office

January 24, 2013 1:55 am 1 comment

Danny Ayalon speaks to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Jan. 10. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

NEW YORK—With prospects of elected office in the rearview mirror, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon didn’t simply reminisce when bidding farewell to U.S. Jewish leaders. Rather, he presented a wide-ranging economic and political analysis, advising his audience to “see reality as it is… in order to affect policy.”

Speaking to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations at a Jan. 10 meeting in New York City, Ayalon said goodbye—for now. He was booted last month from the Yisrael Beiteinu party’s Knesset ticket for not informing his boss, former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, of a meeting he held with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ayalon warned of a universal “growing ungovernable tendency, even in your (American) system.” He discussed the importance of recognizing the magnitude of geopolitical change.

“We must consider what world will be left to the future generations,” Ayalon said.

By 2050, 10 billion people will seek food, affordable energy, water good medical care, and security, he said.

“The only thing that can close the gap is technology… and Israel is at the forefront of technology,” Ayalon said.

Israel’s relationships throughout the international community are also changing, said Ayalon. Practical demands have created a “new agenda” and Israeli experts are already in place.

“Israel is not isolated at the United Nations,” he said. “There is a sea of change between multi-lateral and bi-lateral diplomacy, [the latter] realistically based on how a country can benefit from a relationship… People like to do business with Israel—and it shows!”

Israel’s recently discovered energy resources—initially gas and lately, oil—will further alter relationships, suggested Ayalon, providing “the bridge between the economic world and the world of politics… Change in the price of oil will change the geopolitics of the world.” He characterized the “weight” of oil as “diminishing.”

A reliable water supply is an essential component of growth—especially in the Middle East. “Israel is the only country that desalinates,” Ayalon said. He anticipated that “Israel will supply water to the whole Middle East.”

Though he was not a candidate for office in Israel’s election this week, Ayalon recommended that the new government “think outside the box” when looking at the complex issues of Iran and the Palestinians.

“We must recalibrate our expectations,” Ayalon said.

“I do not see a final status agreement,” he said. “The minimum Palestinian demands do not meet the maximum Israel can give. We should find the good, if not the excellent… We should find the converging interests between Palestinians and Israelis. This is not a ‘zero sum game.’ We need a formula… Final borders are not necessary—perhaps a return to the road map and a long-term interim solution to give Israel security and the Palestinian Authority recognition.”

Ayalon stressed that the changes have more promises than challenges. Both sides need to think of management of the conflict and reduced tensions in order to develop an interim agreement with economic cooperation and less acrimony, he said.

“Since the 1948 war, the Arabs have said ‘time works for us;’ 65 years later, Israel is stable, technologically advanced, and able to defend itself,” Ayalon said. “At the same time, the Arab world is imploding! Time works only for those who use it well.”

But Israel needs to invest in more than technology, according to Ayalon.

“A different framework, with more universal burden sharing, including universal draft or national service,” is part of solving the “growing gap between the millionaire young entrepreneurs and the lower-paid workers,” he said. Ayalon added that Israel “must level the playing fields and strengthen its periphery.”

The $32,000-per-capita income attained by the top third of Israelis has been “achieved with one hand tied behind our back” because “25 percent [of Israelis] are not participating” in the workforce, according to Ayalon. He suggested that addition of the ultra-Orthodox could double Israel’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), advising that “it must be done with a consensus; some influential rabbis are already agreeing.”

Days after his “farewell” at the Conference of Presidents, JNS.org joined Ayalon during a breakfast at Congregation Edmond J. Safra in New York, where the diplomat was welcomed by the senior rabbi of the congregation, Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadi. In this setting, Ayalon spoke on topics of personal interest. He stressed instilling pride and knowledge of Judaism.

“We have to make Jewish education affordable for everyone,” he implored, calling for collective Jewish responsibility and cooperative action, including “federations, rabbis, and leaders… We have to understand how important it is to keep Jews united.”

“When push comes to shove, the common goal must be the survival of our people,” he said.

Ayalon as deputy foreign minister had significant input in Israel’s hasbara (public relations) campaign.

“Once the Arabs realized they could not beat Israel on the battle ground they took other means, taking the battle to the economy, to energy, to education, using the United Nations, and attempting to use BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions),” he said. “They have found they cannot beat us that way either!”

Israel’s “Achilles heel,” however, is its hasbara, Ayalon said. He explained that there is “a common ground between Fatah and Hamas—there is no difference” besides a division of labor.

“Hamas is on the ground; Fatah is in Geneva and in New York—they are just as dangerous,” he said, adding that it is therefore “important to fight back with the truth and the facts.”

Ayalon considers the descent of Israel in the public’s opinion to have started after the 1993 Oslo Accords. That year, hasbara was effectively suspended. The government’s attitude, said Ayalon, was basically if you have a good policy, you don’t need to explain it.

“A major mistake: 20 years after Oslo, the Palestinian narrative is recognized, Israel’s is not,” Ayalon said. He noted that despite the return of 100 percent of Gaza and 42 percent of the West Bank, the Palestinians “have reneged on all agreements,” including the promise to make no unilateral decisions.

Ayalon said he “decided to change the paradigm of Israeli hasbara”—moving away from the “reactive-apologetic” approach.

“For Israel, it’s back to the simple message,” he said. “This is our land. It has always been our land. Jews deserve justice. Jews have their rights.’”

“We have to go back to Oslo; to work more effectively with the channels of distribution,” he continued. “First, we have to get through the filters—reporters and publishers who may be under pressure from the Arab establishment’s financial power—starting with oil money and thus advertising.”

Asked to comment on the nomination of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, Ayalon said he knows Hagel personally. Acknowledging that they “did not see eye to eye,” he characterized Hagel as “a decent and fair interlocutor… I think he believes in the relationship between the U.S. and Israel as a natural partnership.”

“Once he sits behind the desk in the Department of Defense, he will be impressed with the volume of the relationship between Israel and America,” Ayalon said of Hagel. “Remember, support of Israel is in America’s best interests.”

1 Comment

  • I am very sad to see Ayalon go from the foreign ministry and the Knesset. His promotion of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands has been exemplary. His excellent series of videos about the threat from a putative Palestinian state has explained the dangers to Israel cogently & has been disseminated widely. I hope he continues his hasbara for Israel even though he is no longer an MK.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →
  • Analysis Arts and Culture Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    JNS.org – One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators—including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders—came to Lincoln Center to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera. “Klinghoffer,” the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premiered in 1991—with few additional stagings. The opera is based [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.