On June 28, 2016, the World Affairs Council – Washington, DC hosted an event at the Israeli Embassy. This was the council’s first event with the state of Israel in its thirty-six year history. Ambassador Dermer attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a degree in Finance and Management and Oxford University with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. He was appointed ambassador to the United States of America on September 30, 2013.
The CEO and President of WAC-DC, Tony Culley-Foster, opened with a brief, yet comprehensive history of the state. He explained the UN Partition Plan to terminate the British Mandate, the formal establishment of the state, and the symbolism of the flag. He focused on the educational programs provided to Jewish youth and the recent improvement of Israeli-Turkish relations. He expressed hope of a lasting agreement between Israel and Palestine and reiterated that the World Affairs Council is a nonpartisan organization.
The Ambassador opened by recounting a quote from a previous meeting, “it’s not important just to hope for the best, but to work for the best.” He noted that Israel is an “innovation nation” that is successful because the people have a lot of “Chutzpah,” and that this is perhaps the reason the country’s name means “He who struggles with God.” He also joked that the presidential candidates would likely be ready to run for the Knesset after a few more election cycles like this one. He claimed that although the Knesset elections were so boisterous, the members often ate together after calling each other names on the floor.
Israel spends 6% of its GDP on defense, while the US spends 4%. The US contributes 20% of Israel’s defense needs and, now, no economic assistance. During Netanyahu’s first term as Prime Minister, he guided contributions from the US from 1.2 billion US dollars a year, to zero. He explained that the military needs of a country are a function of your enemy’s capabilities. Israel is a bulwark against militant Islam. He joked “We are the little Satan, you are the big Satan, and Europe is somewhere in the middle. He claimed that the US was safer from militant Islam the more allies, like Israel; it has in the Middle East. Israeli is of growing importance in terms of cyber power and it is less isolated than it has ever been. This is helped by Israel being at the forefront of providing assistance in Haiti and Nepal.
He claimed the Palestinian Authority wants a state. Thus, the Palestinian cause ends with the end of Israel or the beginning of a state. He said indicators of improvement are found in the youth of a nation and whether or not they are being taught peace. He asserted Israel is not the cure for, or the cause of, anti-Semitism, but it does give Jews a tool to fight back.
The Ambassador ended by saying the US could be better or worse facilitators of negotiations, but that the situation between Israel and Palestine could not be affected by US actions alone. The audience was comprised of WAC-DC members and representatives of diplomatic delegations.