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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.