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For English translation, see below

הילד מרמת גן שהגיע לפסגת הליכוד ומכהן היום בתפקיד החשוב: שגריר ישראל באו"ם, בראיון נרחב בו הוא מדבר על הכל. מסביר למה התנגד לחוק הגיוס, למה החינוך בארה"ב טוב מאשר בישראל, איך הוא מתכוון לחזור לפוליטיקה ומה גרם לאנשים לזלזל בו.

הראיון נערך במסגרת התכנית 'כיכר גלובל', בהנחייתו של הרב בנימין גולדשמידט, כאשר דני דנון נפתח מול מצלמות 'כיכר השבת' ומדבר על הכל.

לראיונות הקודמים במסגרת 'כיכר גלובל'>

כאשר התמנית לתפקיד באו"ם הרבה אנשים לא היו בטוחים האם זה רעיון טוב בשל היותך 'נץ' ימני מובהק ואתה לא מתאים להיות דיפלומט באו"ם ואתה הצלחת להביא הישגים רבים גם בתחום היהדות כדוגמת, אוכל כשר בבניין האו"ם, הכרה של יום כיפור ברשימת המועדים.

"אני איש שמאמין בעבודה קשה וכאשר אנשים שכתבו מאמרים וחוות דעת בלי שבכלל דיברו איתי והכירו את הרקע שלי, הם לא ידעו שהייתי בשליחות בעבר בארה"ב ואף כתבתי על כך ספר בשפה האנגלית, זלזלו בי ואני שתקתי והתחלתי לעבוד עם הצוות המצומצם שלי והצלחנו להגיע  להישגים מדהימים, שברנו תקרת זכוכית כאשר נבחרתי ליו"ר וועדת המשפט באו"ם - בפעם הראשונה נציג ישראלי נבחר לתפקיד כה בכיר".

"זה היה משעשע לראות את האיראנים מגיעים אליי ומתחילים לגמגם שהם מבקשים ממני את זכות הדיבור, אני גאה בהישגים שהצלחתי להגיע אליהם".

"זה שהייתי פוליטיקאי לפני עזר לי מאוד, גם ידידתי הקרובה - השגרירה ניקי היילי - ידידת ישראל הגיעה מהתחום הפוליטי וגם בה זלזלו איך היא הביאה את ההישגים הגדולים ביותר עבור מדינת ישראל".

האו"ם באמת יהיה תמיד נגד מדינת ישראל, כמו מטבע הלשון המפורסמת של בן גוריון - "אום שמום"?

"אני חושב שצריך לחזור לאחור לימי בן גוריון ולהבין מה הוא התכוון - הוא התכוון שצריך לקבל החלטות מה שטוב למדינת ישראל, הזירה של האו"ם היא זירה חשובה ואסור להפקיר אותה, אני תמיד אומר לראשי המדינה תעשו מה שטוב למדינת ישראל ואני כבר אלחם למען מדינת ישראל".

"במסגרת תפקידי באו"ם אנחנו מסייעים גם לעוד מדינות, גם מדינות שפועלות נגד מדינת ישראל - אני איתם ביחסים קרובים והם מתנצלים בפני על המדיניות של ראש המדינה שלהם. התפקיד של שגריר הוא לא רק למלאות תפקיד של ראשי המדינה שלו מכיוון שחלקם מחליטים לבד, ככל שהמדינה קטנה יותר ההשפעה של השגריר גדולה יותר, במדינות המפותחות והגדולות יותר השגריר משפיע על דעתו של ראש המדינה שלו ובסוף הם מצליחים להשפיע ולכן קשרי החברות סייע לנו מאוד. אותם שגרירים בסוף מתקדמים לתפקידים בכירים וזה חשוב לקשרי החוץ".

 

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו מילא את התפקיד של שגריר ישראל באו"ם, יש לך שאיפה להתקדם לאן שהוא התקדם?

"התפקיד הזה הוא באמת חשוב ויש לי את הדרת הכבוד לחלוק את התפקיד עם גדולי האומה, ואני משתדל לכבד את המעמד, הניסיון שצברתי בתפקיד הזה יסייע לי בהמשך הדרך אני מתכוון להיות מעורב מאוד במה שקורה בישראל, אני יודע שיש הרבה בארץ שיחששו מזה ויש כאלה שרק מחכים ליום שאני אחזור לפעילות הציבורית. אני מבטיח לכולם שאני מתכוון לחזור ולפעול במערכות השונות - הפעם הם יקבלו גירסא משופרת שלי".

אתה לא מתכוון לנשום קצת בין תפקיד לתפקיד?

"ראשית, מגיע לי חופש וברגע שאני אסיים את הכהונה כאן אני אקח חופשה ואנוח. אני עדיין צעיר וכוחי במותניי אני בהחלט מתכוון לקפוץ למים ולחזור לזירה הפוליטית".

מה עם שגריר חרדי, האם אין מקום לציבור החרדי בשירות החוץ של מדינת ישראל?

"בוודאי, הגיע הזמן וזה מצער שזה לא קרה עד היום, הרי החרדים הם חלק מהפנים של מדינת ישראל. יש כוח גדול שחרדי מציג את העמדה של מדינת ישראל וחושב שזה יקרה בהקדם. באירועים שאני יזמתי באו"ם הזמנתי רבנים כמו בליל הסדר ובחנוכה, נהפכתי להיות כמו שליח חב"ד והשגרירים הסתכלו על הרבנים בהערצה".

"מקרה משעשה שקרה לי, זה היה שהדגמנו ליל שבת כהלכתה לפי המסורת ואחד השגרירים הגיע אליי ואמר שזה היה הדבר הכי מרגש שהוא חווה בחייו עד היום כשהוא רואה אותי בבניין האו"ם הוא מאחל לי בהתרגשות "שבת שלום" שבת שלום", אפילו ביום שני..".

"יש מועמדים רבים בקרב הציבור החרדי שאני מכיר אותם שפשוט יחזקו את העוצמה של מדינת ישראל הם אנשים חריפים וחכמים במיוחד".

מה אתה אומר על הרטוריקה בארץ כנגד הציבור החרדי בפרט ההסתה שיש על הציבור החרדי בבחירות האחרונות?

"אני אומר לציבור החרדי כי לפני בחירות יש לקחת את הדברים בפרספקטיבה אחרת, הרי בבחירות כולם צריכים לספק סחורה ולהקצין מסרים. בפועל יום אחרי הבחירות אנחנו פועלים ביחד נגד איראן ונגד חמאס".

"אני מאמין גדול בהידברות לייצר שיח איך החרדים יוכלו להשתלב, בתקופת כהונתו של לפיד כשר האוצר וכשהוא חוקק את חוק הגיוס אני כיהנתי כסגן שר הביטחון ואני הייתי בין היחידים שלא הצביע בעד החוק שלו שכפה על גיוס חרדים אני לא מאמין בכפייה הזו".

• עשו לייק לעמוד הפייסבוק של 'חדשות' ותישארו מעודכנים

איך היה לך ולמשפחתך לעבור ממושב שקט בשרון ל'תפוח הגדול'?

"זה משהו אחר לגמרי, הדינמיקה שונה במנהטן - הכל רועש. מה שמעניין שאני עובד במקום שהוא מאוד קר אך הקהילה היהודית בעיר מאוד חמה ומחבקת, מחמם את הלב לראות את זה. גם אנחנו כישראלים יכולים ללמוד מהקהילה היהודית פה, כדוגמה: נושא חינוך, הם סופגים בבתי הספר הרבה ערכים ומסורת הרבה יותר מאשר בישראל".

 

English translation

 

R’ Binyamin: Greetings to all Kikar HaShabbat surfers. Today we have the honour of speaking with the “kid from Ramat Gan” who rose to the very top of the Likkud Party, served as one of the most active MKs and government Ministers, and today serves as Israel’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations – Mr. Dani Danon.
Danny Danon: Shalom, Rabbi.
R’ Binyamin: Hi, what’s doing?
Danny Danon: Very good, glad to see you here, at our New York offices.
RB: Glad to be here. I always see you in Shul, so it’s good to also see you , at your office. When you were first appointed to this position, many people were unsure whether it was a good idea. There were some who claimed that you were decidedly right-wing, a “hawk” whose politics were unfit for UN diplomacy. Yet here we are several years later, and you have proven your ability to obtain many things that no one else managed to get, among them kosher food at the UN, inclusion of Yom Kippur on the list of official holidays recognized by the United Nations… Where did the go wrong, what did they miss?
DD: I believe in hard work. And when all those parties wrote articles, or gave their opinions… without ever trying to speak to me, or to run a background check on me, not knowing that I studied in the US and actually wrote a book in English before I set out for here – they scorned and ridiculed, while I kept my silence. I worked hard with my small team here at the Mission, and we have arrived at great achievements – we broke the proverbial glass ceiling. As you have mentioned, we have achieved great results with regard to Judaism, and now I have been elected Chairman of the UN Legal Committee – for the first time, an Israeli presides over the UN Legal Committee –
RB: The Sixth Committee.
DD: The 6th Committee – an Israeli Chairman of the Legal Committee – it is really a historic moment. Rabbi, you should have seen the Iranian and Syrian emissaries having to come and ask me for permission to speak – they stuttered, it was hard for them – but they had no choice. Therefore, in my opinion, through hard work anything is possible – we must believe in our derekh, our line, believe that it is just, - and I am extremely proud of the achievements we have arrived at and of our work here at the UN today.
RB: In your opinion, in order to be Israeli Ambassador at the UN, must one be a diplomat, or is a politician preferable?
DD: We have excellent diplomats, but when you come from a political background – that in itself is a very big advantage. My good friend, Ambassador Nikki Haley, also came to this post without a diplomatic background. She previously served as Governor of South Carolina, and by the way, she was also spoken of in the same way as I – that she had no experience, and she was so and so, yet she has proven herself as an excellent Ambassador. Therefore I believe that political experience is empowering. You are capable of making decisions on the spot, you know how to network and connect with people in a very effective way. Accordingly, I think it was a very significant achievement of ours to have formed good working ties with dozens of Ambassadors – I personally accompanied about 100 UN Ambassadors on their visits to Israel, and it’s all about personal work – in my political career, I also learned that a lot of interpersonal work is needed – you need to build your network, and then implement your ideology through the network of ties that you have built.
RB: Ben-Gurion coined the phrase “UM-SHMUM” (“UN be damned”). In principle, there are those who say: what does it matter, they are always against us, every time, in every possible vote, nearly the majority automatically vote against the State of Israel. And purportedly, from the moment you came here – do you hold by this sentiment of “um-shmum”, or do you believe it’s important – is it important what people say about us –
DD: I believe that we need to go back to what Ben Gurion meant by this phrase. He said that we must do what is good for the State of Israel, period. And that is what I believe today, as well. And that is what I tell my friends in the IDF and the government: make the right decisions for the State of Israel, and then I will wreck my brain over how to explain it, how to deal with the discussions (denouncements?) at the Security Council - we will manage. We must not abandon or neglect the UN arena – we need to fight in the UN arena, and that is what I do every day, hour after hour – wage battle, and I believe in the justice of our path. But when it comes to making decisions – first of all we must defend the citizens of Israel, and then cope on the international arena. Yet we may not neglect it, and to say – we need not speak, no need to explain, let’s leave the room, let’s leave the auditorium, let’s storm out of the building – on the contrary, I say we stay in the room, in the discussion hall, we are going to run the meetings and determine the agenda, and we are now managing to change that perception that at the UN, they have always been against us. There’s still enmity towards Israel, but we have been able to introduce a new agenda at the UN, a Jewish agenda, an agenda of Jewish tradition, of technology, a different agenda than what everyone has grown accustomed to at the UN.
RB: Bilam “a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations”. You are probably someone who sees the Jewish People’s aloneness more than anyone else. Every day, you go to work at a place where most people do not like us - mildly put.
DD: There are such moments when you enter an auditorium, and you know that you are on your own. I remember the Security Council vote in December 2016, when the previous US President Obama promoted a resolution against the State of Israel, a very embarrassing resolution – and I was alone in the room. I was alone against everyone – the entire Security Council! Even the United States, our big friend –
RB: Samantha Power, yes –
DD: The US abstained, and in practice helped that resolution to pass. I obviously insisted on the justice of our stance, and I told everyone there: we have survived the Babylonians, and we survived other nations that tried to hurt us – we are strong, we are here to stay, and not far off is the day when you see what happens here, in this room! A year later, in the same room, same place - there we were, having a discussion on the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. That is to say, even in the hardest moments, if you believe – you can survive them.
RB: We know that the State of Israel is involved in liaison with many countries that previously had no diplomatic ties with Israel. Here, you meet representatives of the entire world. Are you among those involved in contacts with those new countries that have no diplomatic ties with Israel?
DD: Certainly, and that is fascinating work. First of all, in terms of numbers, there are 193 countries at the United Nations, of whom 160 have full diplomatic ties with the State of Israel, which is a significant, respectable number. There are also those whose ties with us are ”quiet” – they will meet with us behind the scenes, do things together with us quietly, without going public – and we are constantly pushing them towards acting in the open. I visited in Dubai two years ago, a most interesting visit; I am in touch with other Muslim Ambassadors, and we cooperate – coordinating positions, promoting moves – yet this is being done quietly, and I tell them: enough of this, the time has come for you to act in the open, look at Egypt, look at Jordan – you can do it too, today you can recognize the importance of Israel and tell the entire world: Israel is not the problem, Israel is part of the solution.
RB: When will it get to the realistic stage, to opening Embassies – do you believe that we are close to that stage, or is it still far off –
DD: I believe it will come in a big wave – not just one country.

They are always looking over their shoulder, what are other countries doing? And they ask me: Danny, what did you sell that country? What project did you implement there? And I respond: what does it matter, if you want to work with us – come and work with us! But they are constantly looking to their left and their right. Therefore the moment this happens – and it can happen very soon – it is going to be a whole group of countries that will come together, and tell the whole world: we are working with Israel openly.
RB: So could it be, Ambassador Danon, that you have changed since the day I listened to you as Deputy Defence Minister, a right-wing hawk, that you have become a diplomat? Have these years influenced you on the personal level? Do you feel a difference in terms of your personal development?
DD: First of all, I have certainly learned a lot on this job, I have met with dozens of world leaders, and formed ties with people from all over the world. My faith is the same faith as ever, my values are the same. I still believe in the same principles as four years ago and twenty years ago. Today I have more tools for attaining those goals for the sake of the People of Israel. That is to say, my values are the same, while my capabilities – today I am capable of more things than in the past, when I was a Knesset member or government Minister – I did not understand how one goes about promoting moves in the international arena, and today I both have this knowledge and an acquaintance with leaders who can be of help to the State of Israel.
RB: You spoke about principles. Moshe Rabeinu said to Yehoshuah: “Hazak VeEmatz” – Be Strong and Courageous. Before passing away, he told him: you are going to be the next leader, so be strong and courageous. The reason this blessing is so interesting – there are leaders who have a strength that is internal, their principles. There are leaders who have principles, but they lack courage. There are also those who have courage yet they have no principles. Few are the leaders in the entire world who have both principles and courage. No one would challenge the fact that you have lots of courage. You have always been brave, even when you went against the grain and the leadership of your party, sometimes against the Prime Minister, and you have even stated independent positions. My question is – what are your principles, what are the principles that lead you ?
DD: When you speak about principles in which you believe, you are broadcasting outwards. People appreciate it, they see (recognize) it. When you, Rabbi, spoke about the Likkud party (or: even when you are arguing within the party??? or – by the way???), of which I am a member - my comrades always knew that it is stemming from my principles, and was not personal attack on someone specific, and in this way I merited a very broad liking among members. Even when I was on my own and in the minority, people still knew that it was coming from the right place. Same thing at the UN, when I talk about our entitlement to Eretz Israel, and I start with the Biblical entitlement, and I move on to speak about history and international law, people know I am talking from a place of truth, from a place of true recognition of our right to Eretz Israel, they appreciate it and they really listen, it is not some political manoeuvre to earn points from them. They realize it is coming from a place of faith, and they appreciate it. Therefore I am going to stand by my principles, which are, first of all, to believe in our right to Eretz Israel, to strengthen the State of Israel, to improve what happens in the country, and also Tikkun Olam – to help the entire world, and here I would like to put in a word – we could do more. We are a strong country, a leading country, we can do more and help more countries – and I do that. Just now, while you waited here, an Ambassador of a certain country came in, and we spoke about how the State of Israel helps them deal with their problems. We have capabilities and knowledge that we must share with the world.
RB: Do you strike real friendships with ambassadors, or is it all just about work?
DD: There are real friendships, and sometimes you have the curious situation when ambassadors work against us on the public level, and then come to me saying, Danny, you do know what we really think about Israel. You do understand us...! And I say, yes, unfortunately the situation is such that your leader over there still does not understand what should be done – but I have relations here with brilliant, top-notch people, and as far as I am concerned, it’s a great experience working with them.
RB: Let me ask you a question – how much room for manoeuvre does an Ambassador have? Indeed, being an Ambassador is a really important position, but at the end of the day, like you said, you are subordinate to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. How much can it affect things – a social relationship? Indeed, at the end of the day they all receive directives from their capitals and do what they are told –
DD: Very, very important. I also accompanied dozens of UN Ambassadors to Israel – but before landing in Israel, we visited Auschwitz and taught them about the Holocaust, and in Israel they went to Yad Vashem, to the City of David, visited Jewish and Christian holy sites. Once you connect to a person, you can talk to them about anything – about your family, about politics – you make a connection. The Ambassadors are very important for several reasons. First, some of the Ambassadors make their own decisions. The smaller the country, the more influence their UN Ambassador will have. Sometimes they tell me, Danny, there’s no one I can talk to – you want my vote? You got it. I am doing it on my own.
RB: How many countries operate like that?
DD: Dozens.
RB: Dozens of countries whose prime minster says to the UN Ambassador: vote as you please?
DD: Yes, the Ambassadors decide on their own. Secondly, for larger, more developed countries, the Ambassadors do not decide on their own, but they are there in the room. And Israel is like that as well. The Prime Minister will make decisions on the significant matters. For example, if there is a very sensitive vote tonight - he is going to make the decision, but he will ask me: Danny, what do you think, what do you propose, what will the implications be at the UN if we do this or the other. Same thing with these other Ambassadors – they are there in the room when Israel is being voted on, or when Israel is discussed, and they have what to say, and that affects the ultimate resolution. And thirdly, some of the Ambassadors do not end their public service here, but continue to other positions. Ambassador Haley, for instance – I am sure we will be seeing her in other key positions – and she visited Israel for the first time…
RB: So you are saying that is often just the beginning –
DD: Certainly, same thing by us – our Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was here as an outstanding UN Ambassador in the 1980s, and he moved forward from here. Therefore those Ambassadors – and by the way, some of those I know personally are already serving as Foreign Ministers, or other positions, or even heads of state – this is a very good place to invest in them, because they have the time and the patience to listen.
RB: You mentioned the future prospects of UN Ambassadors. While I waited outside here, I studied the list of past UN Ambassadors for Israel: Abba Eban, Binyamin Netanyahu, President Herzog – where are we going to see you – where do you aspire to get?
DD: First of all, it is really an impressive roster, and I enter my office every day with a sense of awe and deference towards this status, this position, the mission we have here – like IDF soldiers who protect our borders, day after day, hour after hour – we too guard our state and political borders. From my perspective, the experience I have been accumulating here will serve me in due course, I intend to be very much involved, and I know that there are people in Israel who are uneasy about that, and there are those who look forward to the day I return to the public arena in Israel, and I promise everyone that I mean to come back, and to continue operating within various systems – but this time you are going to get an upgraded version, with extensive knowledge in the international arena, and with capabilities in the international arena.
RB: And tell me, are you not planning to take a breather from politics after completing this position, or do you intend to go straight into –
DD: First of all, I am entitled to a vacation – so as soon as I finish my tenure here, I will take some time off and rest. Because here every moment, every hour a phone call comes in, and there are discussions, and decisions to make – and even when you go on vacation, it is not really a vacation, because you have to always stay up to date on what’s happening here. I will rest, but I am still young and full of strength, and I am planning to jump straight into the deep water and return to the public arena.
RB: Let’s get back to Israel for a bit. You spoke about 163 countries with whom we have diplomatic ties. I do not think there is a single Haredi Ambassador. A lot is being said about the integration of the Haredi community, and we are currently speaking to the audience of Kikar HaShabbat. Do you think there is place for further involvement of the Haredi society at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in Israel’s Foreign Service?
DD: Definitely. It’s about time. The time has come for it, and it is disappointing that it has not happened until now, there is place for that. They are part of Israel’s public face and image. And there is great power to it when a Haredi who comes and represents the position of the State of Israel: that is a very powerful thing. Bold action must be taken in this regard, to push for it to happen - I think this is really important. By the way, at events I organized at the UN, I invited Rabbis – Pesach Seder that I organized here every year, on Chanukah, and Tashlich –
RB: You have become a Shaliach Habad at the UN –
DD: Just about. We also brought in Habad Shlichim to speak, but yes, I almost turned into a Shaliach Habad. And Ambassadors looked upon in awe and admiration: “hold on, the Rabbi is here!” One of the Ambassadors, when we travelled to Israel together - I hosted a Shabbat meal at a hotel. And it was Shabbat KeHilchata, with full observance, all the traditional aspects, Kiddush, and Shabbat songs. One of the Ambassadors came to me, from Africa, and said: Danny, this has been the most moving evening in my life. Now, for me and for you, Rabbi, Shabbat is important, it is part of our life, but we are already used to it, every week we enjoy Shabbat. But for that Ambassador – and I still see him here at the UN, and he says to me – Shabbat Shalom! Shabbat Shalom! –
RB: Even on Monday he says Shabbat Shalom –
DD: Every day he sees me he exclaims: Shabbat Shalom! – because the experience was so deeply moving for him. We told them to wear white shirts, we went to the Kotel, we returned to the hotel, welcomed Shabbat – and that is something they will never forget! Therefore I think that Haredi integration will strengthen Israel. Through this, we will achieve new levels of strength which we do not have today.
RB: Do you have any specific recommendations for a Haredi person who could be a good fit for the post of an Israeli Ambassador?
DD: Well, I am not going to propose your candidacy, Rabbi, as you are already fulfilling a very important mission for the Jewish People. But I can think of a number of excellent candidates – I am acquainted with the Haredi community, they are sharp, brilliant people, and I think that the challenge and the beauty of it will be the fact that they will be charged with the task of representing the State of Israel. They will have to come forward and speak about the entire country, and they will do it – like I do it, on various topics, and like others in the Foreign Service do it. It will showcase the unity of the State of Israel, our ability to be as one People, with one heart.
RB: What is your take on the current rhetoric in Israel – there is a strong public rhetoric against the Haredi society, especially after the last election fell through more or less over the Conscription Law – how do you feel about this issue? Is it something that can be resolved, or is it an issue that cannot be solved, is it a real crisis or is just a …<?> –
DD: First of all, I call upon the Haredi society and the secular society to take everything in perspective – that is, in the perspective of the elections. In the period leading up to the elections, everyone is obligated to take their statements to the extreme, to sharpen things, to speak about issues – so they talk. And then in practice, the day after the elections, we are all in it together – against Iran, against Syria, against the Hamas – we are one people who must act together, and we are going to do that – we have proven that we are able to act as one people, and I also believe in talking – I believe we can and should talk about integrating Haredi people in meaningful service, talk about integrating Haredi people in the public sector – through dialogue. When I was Deputy Minister of Defence, I was one of the very few MKs in the coalition who did not vote in favour of the law proposed by Yair Lapid at the time, which imposed conscription on the Haredi sector. I do not believe in coercion, I believe in dialogue, I believe we can find a common denominator, a mutually acceptable solution, through dialogue.
RB: Let’s change the subject a bit – you have lived here in Manhattan for several years now. You grew up at the Moshav Mishmeret, an agricultural settlement in Israel. What is it like, to go from Mishmeret to Manhattan?
DD: First of all, it is much noisier here. I am used to working hard throughout the week, then Shabbat comes and it is all quiet. Here, even on Shabbat it is all noise, and ambulances, and more noise. But what is interesting is that although I live in a place that is very cold, I find myself in the middle of a very warm Jewish town, one that embraces you. So it’s a bit of a dissonance that during the day, you are working in the corridors of the UN, with people who are quite cold, and then you go out of the building and you see a warm and welcoming community – everyone asking when you are going to come, which Shul you are going to, and thank G-d, there are many Shuls here – it warms your heart, you see the strength of the Jewish community and its warmth, and I think we Israelis could learn some lessons from the Jewish Community here. It is true that we tend to tell everyone else, come and learn from us, it’s part of being Israeli – behaving like we are the best in the world, so come and learn from us – and yet…
RB: What could Israelis learn from the Jewish Community here?
DD: I always tell my friends here, come and learn from Israel, come to visit and learn – but we Israelis also have a lot to learn from them -
RB: Tell me something specific –
DD: For example, Jewish education here – I see my children who are learning at educational institutions here…
RB: Which schools are they at?
DD: Jewish day schools, all of them excellent. They went to a Jewish summer camp, they are absorbing values and tradition to a degree that is much more significant than in Israel. That is to say, back in Israel my kids took part in youth movement activities – and I am a great believer in Jewish youth movements, I used to be head of the world Beitar movement – but in the youth movement, we only went to camp for a week each summer. And after the camp we came back home and somehow spent the rest of the summer… Then you see summer camps here, where kids pray, and learn together, and there’s Zionism, and learning about Israel, and they bring over Israeli counsellors – that’s fantastic. Imagine being able to give our children in Israel a month or six weeks of Jewish traditional education, Zionist education during the summer! We also have what to learn from US Jewry, and there is no need to be ashamed of it.
RB: Do you feel that you have come closer to Judaism, embraced it to a greater degree since coming to New York?
DD: Look, I have always been very connected to Judaism, closely connected to Jewish communities – but in my capacity today, I certainly represent not just myself, not only the State of Israel – I represent the Jewish People. And when I hosted an event that we worked very hard on, an event on fighting anti-Semitism at the UN General Assembly – it was very hard to convince Ambassadors from Europe and South America – and in the end we achieved a majority, gathered the Assembly, and invited the Rabbi from Poway, San Diego to speak -
RB: Rabbi Goldstein –
DD: Rabbi Goldstein, who did a wonderful job, in my opinion – that was the message. We represent the State of Israel and the Jewish People, every day, every hour.
RB: So you are saying there are many Israelis who come here and they receive a lot from the local Jewish Community. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands Israelis all over the world, a lot of them in the United States, who are not connected to the local Jewish communities, for numerous reasons.

In Israel, Judaism is free. You don’t have to pay for your Synagogue, you do not have to pay for Jewish education. Here, Jewish education costs a fortune – tens of thousands, and if you have several children, it is an exorbitant sum. What, in your opinion, can the State of Israel do in order to keep Israeli Jews in diaspora connected to Israel, of course, but also to Judaism?
DD: First of all, Israelis living outside of the country are part of the State of Israel, an important part, that needs to be brought closer, we must keep them involved and affiliated – I am very concerned by the issue of assimilation, and today assimilation also affects Israelis who live in the Diaspora, and quite naturally, they assimilate. Therefore I think this is a very important issue, and I truly appreciate any initiative in this regard that they take – the very fact that they get together, organize events and talk – that alone connects them. We do not want them to disperse, we do not want assimilation to affect Israelis as well, and therefore I welcome and encourage all of these initiatives and ideas. We must understand that in today’s “global village” there are Israelis who are leaving the country, those who are returning to the country – that is already an integral part of the global village (cosmopolitan world). You have French nationals living in New York, and Americans living in France. Therefore we must internalize the fact that they are here, strengthen them and get them involved for Israel.
RB: Ten or fifteen years ago, if you were to say that the State of Israel would be willing to pay for the Birth Right (Taglit) Program, to have Jewish children come to Israel for a tour - that would sound completely far-fetched.
DD: I love using this example when I speak at fundraising events for Israel here. First of all, we are deeply grateful to all of the organizations that help the State of Israel - it is a part of the American culture – and another thing…
RB: One moment, if I may finish the question.
DD: Please, go ahead, Rabbi.
RB: Would it make sense for the State of Israel, as the main body responsible for the future of the Jewish people – to invest in Jewish education in the Diaspora as well?
DD: Definitely.
RB: On the level of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, to take it further than just BirthRight – there you are talking about 18-year-olds - if they had no Jewish education until then, the chance of influencing them is very limited. Fighting BDS is great, but if by the time Jewish kids get to college they have had no Jewish education, the impact is very minimal. Do you see the State of Israel coming forward to help with Jewish education in the Diaspora as well?
DD: Certainly. I think it is part of our set of objectives, and a challenge – it is done, by the way, all sorts of Education Ministry projects – but it is not enough, much more needs to be done.
RB: In the Diaspora? Ministry of Foreign Affairs… The budgets are tiny…
DD: Yes, in various countries, there’s a budget for working in the CIS, there are Israeli teachers who are sent to the communities – but it is still not enough. By the way, when I speak to philanthropists at various events here who donate for the State of Israel, I tell them – it is all very important and good, but we in Israel also invest tens of millions every year to bring your children and grandkids on a trip to Israel, which shows that we share the sense of common destiny, and it shows that the State of Israel through this important project invests funds in Diaspora Jewry, and there is place for growth in this regard. By the way, we could also talk about security, an issue I was closely involved with as a Knesset Member – a sensitive matter, as most countries are not thrilled to see another country involving itself in their citizen’s security, yet the State of Israel is committed to act as a guarantor for all Jews, whoever (and wherever) they are.
RB: The fact that there is kosher food at the UN, and that you performed Tashlich together with Rabbi Schneier on Rosh HaShana with Bun Ki Moon, and that the UN recognizes Yom Kippur – they are not starting to confess their sins yet; they are not saying: we have transgressed, we have sinned, we have betrayed, we have robbed with regard to the State of Israel. Will the Jewish message also influence the policies of the UN?
DD: First of all, it is a matter of atmosphere. When I got there and I saw that Halal food was available, “kosher for Muslims” food – I said, excuse me, what about us? We are, after all, a country with equal rights, my sense is that Israel is a country equal to others at the UN – you may not like us, you have criticism – but we are still a country with equal rights at the UN, and that is how you are going to treat us. That was highly symbolic, the whole issue of kosher food. By the way, most people choosing kosher are not even Jewish. Kosher food that arrives at the UN cafeteria every day disappears very quickly. And with regard to Yom Kippur, it is also very important. I saw that they honour other holidays – Eid Al Fitr, and Xmas and Christian holidays – so I said, what about our holiday, the one that is the most important to us? And that is all related to our stance at this place, and in my opinion it makes a difference – and in addition, it causes them to want to know a little more, to take an interest – like, for example, during Pesach, when I hosted a Seder – most of the guests did not even know what Pesach was. They have heard the word Pesach, but they had no idea about the meaning of Exodus from Egypt. Therefore it is important for us as part of our public diplomacy work.
RB: There are always discussions (?) about the official representatives of Israel overseas, such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the President, Ambassadors – whether they should eat lobster and all that, there’s always the question, here and there a picture pops up (or: there’s a general perception) of an Ambassador eating non-kosher food – what is your take on this, how do you feel about it?
DD: Look, I am not going to give assessments to others – I can only talk for myself. We keep a kosher home in full accordance with Halacha, and when we eat out - we eat kosher, and it is important to us – we represent the State of Israel and the Jewish People. To this day I recall Shamir, a Prime Minister for whom I had the deepest respect - he once told me during his tenure as Prime Minister – he was not committed to observing kashrut personally - and he said: the day I finish my service as Prime Minister, I can eat whatever I want. There is meaning to such symbolic practices.
RB: Napoleon said that a soldier who does not aspire to be a general is not even a soldier. Where are you going to be in five years from now?
DD: I believe in HaShem, in Divine Providence. I have motivation, I have aspirations, I work hard, and in the end – I believe that through faith and hard work I will come to a place where I can help the Jewish People. When might that happen, where and how – only time will tell.
RB: What are the plans for the UN General Assembly, is Netanyahu going to pull out some new prop, something interesting in the midst of the General Assembly, what are your plans with regard to the agenda?
DD: The Prime Minister is going to arrive here only a week after the elections in Israel. I believe that the majority of his energy will have been invested in the elections, and only then he will make himself available to prepare for his speech and the meetings here, and his speech is always one of the most interesting at the Assembly. Usually, the hall is quite empty during the Assembly, but when the Prime Minister comes to talk, the audience here listens, and it is a most important stage for conveying our message.
RB: Only Israelis listen, or does the world listen?
DD: Oh, they do listen! Ambassadors come, heads of state come. There are not many interesting speeches at the Assembly. President Trump attracts an audience, Trudeau from Canada, and our Prime Minister – they are the most interesting speakers at the General Assembly, and I am sure it is going to be very interesting.
RB: Your English has also improved very much over the past years, and we thank you for your time.
DD: Thank you very much, Rabbi, Kol Tuv!