News / Middle East

Q&A With Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer: Support for Israel Strong Among US Lawmakers

FILE - Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Detmer (right)
FILE - Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Detmer (right)
Natasha Mozgovaya

Fighting intensified as Israel continued its Gaza offensive for a fourth day Friday, with Palestinian militants launching more rocket attacks on the Jewish state and incoming fire coming from Lebanon for the first time.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will not bow to international pressure to stop the military campaign and would not rule out a ground invasion to stop the rocket fire from Palestinian militants.

VOA's Natasha Mozgovaya spoke with Israeli's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, late Thursday.

Natasha Mozgovaya: “What's your reading of the US administration's reaction to this crisis? On the one hand, they have expressed firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself, on the other, they say 'let’s de-escalate.' What do they mean?”

Amb. Ron Dermer: “I think there's strong support from President Obama and from Congress - bipartisan support, really - across the aisle. Today I held a briefing with our military attache for senators and you could really see expressions of sympathy and support, because everybody understands that Hamas is terrorist organization, it’s firing missiles and using civilians as human shields. I understand that no country in the world would tolerate attacks like this - when two-thirds of the country’s population has to run to bomb shelters. I ask them: imagine what would happen if over 200 million Americans had to run to bomb shelters because of attacks by a terrorist organization that operated in territory contiguous to US territory. So, I think most people believe Israel is acting with considerable restraint. There are always concerns, everybody would like to see the end of the rocket attacks, the end of operations and all that, but there is deep understanding for Israel’s right to defend itself, and I hope this will continue.”

NM: “But, on the other hand, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said today, that “nobody wants to see a ground invasion.” Does it mean that Israel doesn’t have a green light [for a ground operation in Gaza]?”

Amb. Dermer: “I think, first of all, there are no green lights and red lights, we are a sovereign country. We have the right to defend ourselves and the most important [principle] is the affirmation of Israel’s right to defend itself against those rocket attacks. The issue of a ground operation or not a ground operation is a military tactic, it’s not an objective [which is really] to end the rocket attacks - not just for a day or a week or two - and to give quiet to the residents of Israel. And I think there is a broad support for that. So you can look at the statements trying to look for a word that suggests sort of a lack of support, but what I’ve seen was strong support - and I remember a year-and-a-half ago, the last time we had a confrontation with Hamas for eight days - [there] was very, very strong support throughout from the president, and I expect that support will continue as well. You’ve also seen statements that were made by [German] Chancellor [Angela] Merkel, by President [François] Hollande of France, by David Cameron, the British prime minister, by Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister. So we’ve seen very strong support, that’s appreciative, that we need to do what’s necessary to protect our population. And I don't think there is a military in the world that goes to such great lengths to keep the civilians of the other side’s population out of harm’s way. So there is support of our action.”

NM: In the readout of today’s phone call between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu there was some suggestion of American mediation, help to end hostilities. What did the U.S. actually offer?

Amb. Dermer: “I haven’t had a chance to speak about it specifically with the prime minister - the call happened only a few hours ago. I don’t know specifically what they were talking about, but obviously any suggestion that would help achieve the goals Israel has set out for its operation - in this case, to end the rocket attacks and restore quiet - would be something Jerusalem would be open to. But I don’t know specifics... It hasn’t been that relevant because our country is under attack and we have three quarters of the country that at one time or another has to rush to bomb shelters - so we are under rocket attack and the prime minister has to do what he has to do to protect the civilian population of Israel.”

NM: Did you ask for any support from America? Additional financing for Iron Dome, or anything technical?

Amb. Dermer: “Well, we have asked of an increase in funding for Iron Dome - I think it’s important for your listeners to understand that it’s a joint project between the US and Israel. It’s Israeli technology that was funded by the U.S. It knocks down a-lot of these rockets that have been fired at Israel, it’s an anti-missile system where, basically, a missile is shot at an incoming rocket to knock it in the air, [and it] has very effective success ratio. It’s protecting our civilians from what could be huge casualties on the Israeli side. And it’s also in a way protecting Palestinian civilians, because we have this protection of the Iron Dome, it gives the leadership in Israel the time and space it needs to effectively prosecute this surgical war against Hamas, and can do it in a way that keeps Palestinian civilians to the greatest extent possible out of harm’s way. Without Iron Dome, Israel would have to take much faster, much more forceful action to end these attacks, because Israel would be paying huge price for it. So we’ve asked for additional assistance for Iron Dome, but it actually happened before this operation. I know there is strong support for increasing support for Iron Dome.”

NM: Still, the Palestinian leader called [the Israeli operation] “genocide.” What is your reaction to that?

Amb. Dermer: "I think it’s completely shameful to use a word like genocide, particularly when you are dealing with Jewish state. “Genocide” can be used to speak about Rwanda and to speak about Sudan, those were horrific genocides, in case of Rwanda it was about 900,000 people in 3 months that were killed, it’s [on an] unimaginable scale. I don’t know these precise numbers for Sudan but it was also clearly genocide. When you throw at Jewish people that the actions they are taking to defend themselves against rocket attacks when the vast majority of people that have been killed are Hamas terrorists - and you are talking about a score of casualties that are fewer than a hundred while comparing it to genocide - it’s really an outrage. In May 1944, 10,000 people were killed every day, Jews. Every day were murdered in Auschwitz. That’s genocide. And I think it’s wrong and President Abbas should apologize to the nation for calling it genocide, and I think the international community should hold into account and also demand that he ends the pact that he has made with Hamas - terrorist organization that actually calls for genocide. Genocide is part of their Charter, they actually call for murder of Jews worldwide. So he is actually in alliance with organization that is genocidal organization, and I think his statement was beyond the pale.”

NM: I also have a question about a possible non-conventional threat - there were reports about rockets fired possibly directed at the nuclear reactor in Dimona - one was reportedly intercepted, others fell in the open space. Was it just a misguided missile - or [a] possible attempt [at] nuclear terrorism? How well is the reactor protected?

Amb. Dermer: “I don’t know about this specific case - we have Iron Dome in various locations around Israel, and obviously the military is pointing [the interceptors] in a way that protects Israel’s strategic installations, and we’ll take an action that needs to be taken in order to defend ourselves.”

NM: Do you have an idea why Hamas attacked now - what happened? Was it the murder of the Palestinian teenager, retaliation for the killing of three Israeli teenagers? Some even connect this crisis with the Iranian nuclear negotiations.

Amb. Dermer: “Look, Hamas fired 8,000 rockets at Israel since we withdrew from Gaza - fired from Gaza at Israel, and we withdrew from every square inch, uprooted two dozen settlements, took 10,000 people out, hoping that it will advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. What many hoped would will be the Singapore of the Middle East turned into a terror base for attacks against Israel. So this has been ongoing for a long time, and to think that a particular action triggered Hamas strike, I think is a mistake. It might have led to an escalation at a specific moment - but even 3 months before the three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed - from Gaza, we had about 175 rockets fired at Israel. So they don’t need many excuses to fire rockets at Israel - their mission is in their Charter, to target the Jews, as many as possible, and destroy Israel. That’s why they continued to fire rockets, and [are] not willing to accept Israel's right to exist or abandon terrorism. We hope that will change - and one of the best ways to make a change is for the world to back Israel in taking action against terrorism and also tell [Palestinian] President Abbas he should break his pact with Hamas and go back to peace negotiations with Israel, so we can resolve our conflict with the Palestinians once and for all.”

NM: So what is Israel's goal now - [a] ceasefire, or regime change in Gaza?

Amb. Dermer: “The goal was set by the prime minister, and it’s to restore quiet to the residents of Israel and end these rocket attacks. Our operational goals are clear and hopefully we can achieve [them] in as short a time as possible, with as few casualties as possible. The prime minister is determined to do what’s necessary to defend Israel’s population.”

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
    Next 
by: Let learn from Malaysia from: Tanah Melayu
July 25, 2014 12:38 AM
US & Israel should visit some peace-loving country like Malaysia & get some real-life experience on how the leader of the country go about creating a harmonius & peaceful human ecosystem amongst multi-ethnic population. Both US & Israel have been too engulfed with chaotic theory, destablization strategy & applying 3rd Law of Thermodynamic on this planet. Both need to take a break or else US & Israel might be categorised as Killer Nation by majority of peace-loving nation.
In Response

by: Learn to be lazy from: Beijing
July 25, 2014 2:06 AM
what to learn from Malaysia ? Learn to be a lazy ?
Malaysia is country with descrimination policy against those non-malays. How US and Israel will learn from them ?
It is necessary to make closer relationship with China instead of US. US will never help palastenians but Chinese will do.

by: Brian William Ahern from: Whittier California
July 22, 2014 4:06 PM
Dear Mr Ambassador Dremer,my name is Brian Ahern. Listening to all the talk about terrorist, I get Fed up when all in all they are nothing but criminals. Think that when a young woman is kidnappedoff the sstreets in Monterey Mexico it is a crime, and done by criminals. As I hear it in Israel if the same is done, it is Hamas or terrorist. Please this is only one aspect of cmurime against humanity. Of course murder, destruction of property, and more are happening worldwide. I believe changing the word "terrorist "to simply to "criminal" might bring home the barbaric nature of the state of this world. I wish you well in seeking peace with all your neighbors, Brian Ahern

by: Irene from: Usa
July 15, 2014 8:07 PM
There are many palestinian people who are innocent. However many protect terrorists and they hide with their children. Its cowerdly and inhumane. Its war against terrorism not for more land! I guess people forget sept 11 all too quick.

by: Ed from: Idaho, USA
July 13, 2014 2:19 PM
The Jews are using their Christian support in the U.S. as a lever to help prevail and make war, (without having to make compromises with Palestinians on issues of land and "settlements") in this disuputed country.

Secular Americans boycott Israel and write your congress.
In Response

by: al from: malaysia
July 14, 2014 3:21 AM
I think you are completely wrong in saying that the Jews are using their Christian support in US.
The Christian in US who knows their Bible well will support Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East.
Would you tolerate if your backyard is being dump rubbish by your neihbours...not to mention 8000 rockets since Israel gave up Gaza.
My friend if only you pay a visit to Gaza and Tel Aviv yourself, only then you will realised what you are commenting.
Wake up ...Americans like you who try to be politically correct and of no use to a peaceful world.
I dare you go and stay in Gaza for a month....

by: John Engelman from: U.S.A.
July 13, 2014 1:39 PM
ben,

The Palestinians are not unarmed. They have been shooting rockets at Israel. If they want the Israelis to stop fighting them, they should stop shooting rockets.

by: John Engelman
July 13, 2014 3:23 AM
drake,

The Jews did not execute Jesus. The Romans did.

I have read the Bible many times in different English translations. Jesus and his followers are Jews in a Jewish setting.

by: Izhar from: Pakistan
July 12, 2014 4:18 PM
The Zionist Amb is just making fools in the US and US is already with them. The US law makers are taking bribes in shape of funding for supporting their genocide cause. Israel is biggest terrorist and every terrorism is connected with Israel.
In Response

by: al from: Malaysia
July 14, 2014 5:58 AM
Are you very sure that Israel is the biggest terrorist and every terrorist is connected with Israel? Why then are there so many suicide bombers from the other side of Israel? Because people like you love death and people of Israel loves life.

My friend, Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East that all people has the freedom of worship irrespective of their religion. Can you truly say that of any country in the Middle East and also your country, Pakistan.

Go and see for yourself by paying a visit to Israel where many Palestinians live more securely with the Jews than living fearfully with the Hamas. Have you heard or seen the Palestinians butched by the own people just because they do not subscribe to their ideology? Pay a visit my friend and hope it will change your worldview.

by: rich from: US
July 12, 2014 3:43 PM
It's really sad the militants in Gaza use and store their weapons from/in locations where there are women and children. Israel even notifies via pamphlets when and where they will strike providing ample time for women/children to leave. I feel bad for all the devastation on both sides. I support Israel's right to defend themselves and to use whatever force is necessary to stop the missiles from being launched towards Israel.

by: haroun from: w palm bch
July 12, 2014 3:34 PM
"We Jews have put issue upon issue to the American people.
Then we promote both sides of the issue as confusion reigns. With their eye's fixed on the issues, they fail to see who is behind every scene.
We Jews toy with the American public as a cat toys with a mouse."
—Harold Wallace Rosenthal

by: nvr from: USA
July 12, 2014 3:29 PM
Yes, support among some US lawmakers is strong for Israel and you can directly attribute that sentiment to the large amount of cash that flows to these lawmakers through AIPAC and Israel.

These are bought and paid for politicians.

As an American who once was a strong supporter of Israel, albeit one of the many who was propagandized by the Israel/US lobby, finally realized over the last 10 years that the cruelty, uncivilized and racists heavy handedness of the Israel government can no longer be tolerated by the civilized world.

I for one now support the cause of Palestinian statehood and freedom from the tyranny imposed upon them from Israel.

My prayers to those many innocent civilians, women and children who have been murdered during this recent military campaign by Israel. God bless to you and may peace come to your land.
Comments page of 3
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs