Gilad Erdan - Interviewed 

Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan in an interview: "Israel is represented in the UN as a regional power"

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, marks 3 years in office and in a special interview, he is not afraid to talk about the mistake of the Biden administration in relation to Netanyahu, the efforts for the visa to the USA and why Abu Mazen should be kicked out

Erdan at the UN Assembly (Photo: No Credit)

On the eve of the central gathering, Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, in an interview, refers to the upcoming assembly that will deal with Russia, the efforts to obtain a US visa and his criticism of the American government for delaying the meeting between Biden and Netanyahu. Additionally, he calls on the world to remove Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), outlining the line the Western world should take towards Iran.

What is Israel's main issue in the upcoming assembly?

Erdan estimates that this year's assembly is expected to be particularly interesting. "A record number of world leaders will attend it. Over 120 heads of state. In recent years, due to the pandemic, there has been a decline in interest and attendance, and this year there will be an all-time high in attendance. Of course, the feeling is that the era of COVID-19 is over. It will be interesting because, on the one hand, we are still under the division between the United States and Russia due to the war in Ukraine, which affects everything, and I assume they will focus a lot on that and on the struggle between the bloc led by the United States and those still with Russia. Of course, this has implications for us and how we deal with this whole war."

The ambassador notes that he believes Israel's focus at the UN General Assembly will be on the Iranian nuclear issue. Last year, the Israeli ambassador left the UN General Assembly hall in protest against the speech by Iranian President Raisi, who denied the Holocaust and cast doubt on its occurrence. Prior to Raisi's speech, Erdan placed on Israel's table in the assembly hall a picture of his grandmothers, Holocaust survivors who endured Auschwitz and lost family members who were murdered.

Erdan left the UN summit during the speech of the President of Iran (Photo: Israel's delegation to the UN)

"I estimate and do not yet know, as the Prime Minister always tends to keep his speech close to his chest until very close to the time of the speech. But I estimate that certainly, as just a couple of days ago, the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was published, conclusively proving that Iran is enriching uranium to levels consistent with nuclear weapons and there is no explanation for it. So, I am confident that Netanyahu will have to address this. It is a national security interest of the highest order for Israel to draw global attention to what is happening with Iran. And that's without mentioning that Iran is currently supplying drones to kill civilians in Ukraine and many other terrible things."

(Photo: Aryeh Leib Abrams/Flash 90)

The delay in the meeting with Netanyahu: "The American administration made a grave mistake"

Arden remains undeterred and continues to fight for the name of the country from which he was dispatched to a mission at the United Nations building about three years ago. When he began his tenure, he simultaneously served as Israel's ambassador in Washington, where he established a working team to map the barriers regarding the exemption from the American visa, held a meeting with President Biden and was one of the pioneers towards the long-awaited exemption.

In 2022, he was appointed Vice President of the 77th General Assembly of the United Nations and works tirelessly in front of the organization, which is often opposed to the policies of the Israeli governments. In a special interview at the beginning of the new year, Ambassador Erdan talks about the relations with the American government, the criticism of the United Nations on the legal reform, the prospect of an agreement with the Saudis and Israel's position in the UN, which he says is on the rise.

In recent days, the ambassador shuttled between Tel Aviv and New York, he recruited his eldest son to the IDF and returned to the Big Apple in preparation for the upcoming General Assembly that will open after the Jewish New Year. For the first time in his official role, he will host Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after three years during which the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in Israel's leadership had him meeting with former prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.

The interview took place before the decision to hold the meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly. Erdan addressed the issue and criticized the American government for the delay in the meeting. He stated, "There are contacts on the issue, and I can say that the American government made a serious mistake by postponing the meeting until now. After all, the government was formed in January, so it's clear that this is politics, and there's no reason for it.

"At all levels, we are working very closely with the government, and I also, in front of the American Ambassador. A meeting like this, which also has symbolic significance, is delayed in the end. Who benefits from this? After all, we and the United States have the same enemies, so I really don't understand, and I'm disappointed by this delay. My impression is that the meeting will take place soon, whether at the General Assembly or not, but it will indeed happen soon."

Netanyahu and Biden. The meeting between them will take place soon (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

There are contacts between Israel and Saudi Arabia. There are discussions about Saudi Arabia wanting to hear from the Palestinians, among other things, regarding a return to the 1967 borders. Can an agreement be reached with the current composition of the Israeli government?

"I believe that it is possible, given that all components of the government and every citizen in Israel understand the historical significance of making peace with Saudi Arabia, a country with a unique status in the Muslim world that safeguards holy sites on behalf of Islam. Peace with Saudi Arabia will signal the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict, except for the Palestinian issue. This will have a domino effect that will influence many other Muslim countries. I've seen here at the UN how after the Abraham Accords, many Muslim ambassadors are willing to meet with me, something that wasn't the case in the past. I have no doubt that if there is an agreement with Saudi Arabia, it will be a historic change."

"A significant chance of an agreement with Saudi Arabia"

"In the end, the government will need to decide on its priorities. About three years ago, when Prime Minister Netanyahu told me in confidence about the Abraham Accords, even then, there was no simple cost. We postponed the annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria or the application of Israeli law. However, the government, led by its head, decided on a specific set of priorities in the national interests of Israel. Naturally, the same will happen this time if it comes to a comprehensive deal.

"I cannot say what prices will be required and what we will receive. It is the role of the Prime Minister and his government to prioritize the national interests and what is important for us in the long-term perspective of the Jewish state. I am confident that they will prioritize national interests, but I can certainly say that there is a significant chance that an agreement with the Saudis will be reached."

Do you think the Saudis will talk about normalization at the Assembly?

"Let's leave some surprises and question marks for the Assembly."

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Photo: Shutterstock)

"Israel does not need to subordinate itself to any public body"

In February of this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called on the Israeli government to suspend the reform, which he referred to as 'changes that could weaken human rights.' Perhaps it is time to tell human rights advocates of all kinds to intervene less in what is happening in Israel and focus more on the findings of the report prepared by UN WATCH regarding the authoritarian regime of the Palestinian Authority towards LGBTQ+ individuals?

"I strongly criticized the UN High Commissioner, it's yet another moral distortion and a skewed set of priorities that exist at the UN against Israel. This is what I am fighting to present in every discussion, using creative means and provocations that I initiate here to show the UN what it should have been dealing with if it truly cared about human rights and countries that violate them. Israel is not like that, quite the opposite; we are one of the most ethical countries in the world, especially considering our neighbors and the terrorist organizations surrounding us."

According to him: "Any interference in Israel's internal affairs and on issues that are subjects of democratic debate, such as legal reform, is an audacity that is hard to imagine a greater audacity than that. I fight against this interference in every way, mobilizing countries and various methods here to block UN interference. As Ben-Gurion said, and he was partly right, sometimes you have to say "UM SHMUM" ("Ignore the UN"). It doesn't matter what the nations say, but what the Jews do. We do fight for international legitimacy, especially in the internet age, which is important and significant, and certainly not to play into the hands of those who want to destroy Israel. However, it is related to the security of our citizens and the internal democratic structure and the most internal matters of Israel. No public body should interfere with us, and we should not bow to them."

When you served as the Minister of Internal Security, you demanded that judges who lighten the penalty for throwing stones should not be promoted. When you hear the leaders of the right today about the need to change the composition of the committee for the appointment of judges, did you believe that it would cause such a big storm in the State of Israel?

"The question is very political, and as an ambassador, I cannot delve into it. You are correct that during my 7 years in office, I fought to include judges who are traditional, conservative, and of Eastern descent to balance the judicial system and ensure that violent crimes and terrorism are severely punished. As a politician, my belief has remained unchanged throughout the years that there are many balances that need to be introduced into the judicial system. Regarding today, many did not anticipate that the conflict and tension over the discussion of the judicial system would escalate to such levels. I can only wish for the new year to bring unity and unconditional love; we all need to focus on that and find ways to reduce the tension."

Following the events in South Tel Aviv, dozens of suspects were detained in administrative detention facilities, which drew criticism from the United Nations, claiming that it violates international law. Israel has, in the past, come to understandings, and eventually, things were resolved. In light of the UN's criticism and the regret of Deri and Netanyahu, is it possible to implement the plan again?

"I can only mention facts without getting into politics. I was the Minister of the Interior, and I formulated the plan for expulsion that was possible at the time. The legal advisor to the government, Yehuda Weinstein, could have implemented it. The idea was to deport them at our expense, plus money for the initial period. Anyone who refused, it was clear that we needed to find a way to persuade them until they agreed. There was approval to place those who refused to return to their homeland in detention. Then a petition was filed with the Supreme Court, which froze my plan, and the plan was canceled.

"The Supreme Court has had a significant negative impact for years; it's not a secret. I think it was naivety in the political system. How did it negatively affect? It severely restricted the government's ability to deport infiltrators. As for the considerations of the Prime Minister at the time not to implement the plan in the face of the UN and whether it is relevant today, I don't know; it's not my field. But certainly, immigration and entry policy to the country are within the state's jurisdiction, not the UN, and not anyone else's."

Immigration policy should be under the authority of the state and not through the UN. Riot of the infiltrators (Photo: Omer Fishman/Flash 90)

Jack Lew is expected to replace Nides in the role of ambassador to Israel; formerly, he was Obama's Chief of Staff and was in favor of imposing sanctions on Iran, and he assisted Israel. Is there a change in direction here from the White House's perspective?

"I always suggest thinking that government appointments should operate according to the elected president's choices, so I do not suggest judging people in advance because once they served under one government or another and did things one way or another. Just like regarding the legal reform that there is criticism of in Israel, I say, wait, judge by the result, why do you judge the process that is being promoted with democratic tools? I suggest welcoming him upon his arrival, this is a person who knows the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and giving him the credit and trust, and we will see what policy he will implement."

On Abu Mazen: "This is crazy, the world should call on the Palestinians to remove him"

Throughout its years, the UN institution has tended in favor of the Palestinians, Israel has been accused in the news for its attitude towards our neighbors and often in a hypocritical manner. On the last Memorial Day, Ambassador Erdan protested the decision of the UN Security Council to hold a discussion on the Palestinian issue precisely on Memorial Day. During the protest, Erdan lit a memorial candle in memory of those murdered and fallen in the terrorist acts and read their names. At the end of the reading of the names, Ardan left the hall in protest and shouted to those present: "Shame! This discussion desecrates the memory of the fallen, we will not take part in it."

In another discussion, the Israeli Ambassador stood for a brief moment of silence in memory of the Palestinian terror victims and presented pictures of the late Pil'i brothers who were murdered in the vehicular attack in Jerusalem in February this year. In his speech, he condemned the bias of the UN Security Council, which condemns Israel's actions in Judea and Samaria while turning a blind eye to the murderous incitement of the Palestinian Authority against Israel. He said, "The Palestinian Authority conducts a monstrous incitement campaign, which would make Goebbels and Hitler proud. They poison generations of Palestinian children and teach them that murdering Jews brings endless glory." He further added, "Where was your 'concern' and 'alarm' when Palestinians celebrated the deaths of innocent Jews in murderous attacks?"

Holding the photos of the late Pil'i brothers (Photo: No Credit)

If we're talking about hypocrisy, Abu Mazen spoke at the FATAH conference and claimed that Jews were killed in the Holocaust because of their involvement in usury and money – not because of their religion. He also alleged that Israel's first prime minister, Ben-Gurion, carried out riots among the Jews of Iraq to encourage their immigration to Israel. Abu Mazen will be received with full honors at the upcoming assembly, and they even demand full membership in the UN. Perhaps it's time to say that the era of Abu Mazen is over, and there is no partner?

"In this matter, I said these things before, six years ago, that the era of Abu Mazen was over. In 2017, this strange and disconnected man stood here and announced that he would file a lawsuit against Britain for the Balfour Declaration's centenary. Back then, I said that this man had lost touch with reality. World leaders, if they are truly responsible and see reality, should call on the Palestinians to remove him. Countries around the world interfere in our internal affairs today, and here we have the Palestinians whom the world is so concerned about, yet they see their leader paying terrorists and distorting history. Now it has reached the peak of all peaks in terms of anti-Semitism and hatred of the Jewish people, a kind of legitimization of the Holocaust and Hitler's horrors."

Memorial candle in memory of the terrorism victims (Photo: No credit)
(Video: No credit)

"I am currently concerned that the reception he gets will be as undignified as possible in order to pressure him to face his appalling statements. I demand and urge many leaders to demand and condemn his statement. He has ceased to be a legitimate leader. Two years ago, I passed a consensus here, except for Iran, against Holocaust denial, while Abu Mazen is about to speak in the same hall where the General Assembly condemned the appalling things he said. It's another certificate of disgrace for the UN that he will address here, a new moral low. I will also act with Jewish organizations and with countries that understand what anti-Semitism is, that his remarks will be denounced widely."

Abu Mazen, he must be removed (Photo: Flash 90)

"The distorted structure of the UN, every finger is the same"

Another uproar was caused at the UN when it decided to mark Nakba Day close to the celebrations of Israel's 75th anniversary. The ambassador sharply criticized the decision. On the UN podium, he displayed images of Jews of Arab countries origin expelled from their countries and demanded from the members of the organization, "Stop ignoring the Jewish Nakba." At the end of 2022, on November 29th, he initiated and presented an exhibition about the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. The exhibition was displayed for a week in the main lobby at the UN headquarters. Given the extensive Israeli public relations activity, the question arises: why does Israel still need to fight for its position in the organization? According to him, there is no mistake in the explanation; the problem lies in the structure of the UN, where all fingers are equal.

Showing the deportation of Jews of Arab countries origin (Photo: No credit)

Did Israel make a mistake in its explanation in recent years, with Abu Mazen's arrival at the UN and the images of IDF soldiers at checkpoints at the entrance to the UN Security Council?

"It's not a matter of a mistake in explanation; first, it's important to understand that in 1947, when the decision was made on November 29th, there were only 57 countries in the UN, and it was in the dreadful atmosphere of what happened to the Jewish people in the Holocaust. Back then, they voted in favor of establishing a Jewish state, something that would be unlikely to pass today. Today, there are 193 countries, many of which were born as a result of Spain, Britain, France, and Portugal, as I like to call them with a smile, the 'true conquerors in human history,' as they released many of their colonies and granted them independence. This is how many Muslim countries emerged, and today, almost one-third of the UN member states are Muslim."

(Photo: No Credit)

"Many countries in the UN are not democracies, and their records on human rights are far from ideal, and some of them are connected to the Palestinians, such as Cuba and others. More than half of the UN member states are not democracies at all. The fact that Abu Mazen or the Palestinians have an automatic majority in the UN is not just about explanation. It is primarily due to the distorted structure of the UN where every finger is worth the same. The United States' finger is equal to Iran's in the General Assembly, and then strange decisions can be made, like, for example, the Palestinian exhibition that is permanently located at the entrance to the Security Council."

At the exhibition for the deportation of Jews of Arab countries origin (Photo: No Credit)

"Israel is in the UN as a regional power"

Alongside the criticism and the conduct of the longstanding institution, Erdan explains that Israel's status is rising. "It's not for nothing that the Lubavitcher Rebbe called it 'the House of Lies.' Because this distorted structure produces terrible results, but it also has importance. Around the table are all the countries of the world, and there are areas where it generates solutions. But in everything related to national, religious, and political conflicts like the one with the Palestinians, the UN plays only a negative role.

"It has no ability due to its moral distortion. When there are a billion and six hundred million Muslims and all the economic interests and influence of all their countries, it also affects others, and we are fighting here against a difficult, almost impossible situation. Yet we see that it is possible and necessary to do more in explanation, and I hope and believe that we will invest a lot in the coming years, also in social networks and other important things.

"But Israel's position is on the rise and strengthening. We signed the Abraham Accords, and many Arab countries understand that it's better to work with Israel than against it. Yes, there are ups and downs and crises, but the overall trend is upwards. Israel is a regional power at the UN. We showcase our capabilities in events related to fields like fintech, drones, cyber, and water technologies. Dozens of countries want to promote agreements with us. We need to show Israel's positive aspects, expose the lies, moral distortions, and terror of our enemies. In the end, we will prevail in this as well."

Big credit to the USA, with President Biden (Photo: No Credit)

"Wrapping the New York Times in tomorrow's fish"

Journalist Thomas Friedman argued that normalization with Saudi Arabia couldn't be achieved because, in his view, Israel has a non-normal government. He is someone close to Biden and may have made generous contributions to anti-Israeli organizations in the United States. There has been an almost 50% increase in anti-Semitic incidents on campuses.

"I propose separating opinions from facts. The fact, and I personally know it, is that the current American government is working and trying to promote an agreement in which Israel is also involved. Their agreement with Saudi Arabia includes Israel as part of it. Biden arrived in the region and worked so that Israeli planes could fly over Saudi skies to shorten flights to the Far East and compete with other companies. Actions show that the Americans, including Biden, are acting.

"The commentator and journalist Thomas Friedman, who has been wrong in almost all of his interpretations in the past regarding the Middle East, from the Arab Spring that he celebrated through other mistakes to his and The New York Times' political positions, we are familiar with. I had a tough confrontation with the editors because I presented research that showed the distortion in their news and opinions, in which they treat Israel like the United Nations. They almost don't write against Iran and Syria, countries where there are massacres of people. They highlight everything negative about Israel. I suggest not getting excited and thinking that everything the commentator writes or says is the word of God. Metaphorically, even with The New York Times website, they are wrapping tomorrow's fish. I do not suggest thinking that everything a left-wing commentator reads or says reflects the opinion of the President of the United States."

The New York Times (Photo: Osugi/Shutterstock.com)

"It doesn't mean we don't have differences with the president. When I served as an ambassador in Washington for a year, we had disagreements about the continuation of the nuclear agreement with Iran, as well as about the Palestinians and the UNRWA. But in the context of the Abraham Accords, I give him great credit for continuing the agreements that began during the previous administration."

The UN Security Council has renewed the mandate of UNIFIL for another year, but the situation remains tense. Hezbollah operatives are near the border, and the question is whether there is concern about the military takeover of a terrorist organization on the border, which could push UNIFIL aside?

"This concern exists all the time, which is why we have fought to ensure that the authorities and freedom of movement of UNIFIL soldiers are not limited. Because essentially, any demand for UNIFIL to coordinate its control and supervision with the Lebanese government is like surrendering it to Hezbollah. Because Lebanon, as it stands today, is a non-existent state, fractured, and heavily influenced by Hezbollah, and its military is also affected by the terrorist organization. They receive salaries four times higher than Lebanese army soldiers because Iran funds Hezbollah. We still prefer that UNIFIL divide between IDF soldiers and settlements and between Lebanon and Hezbollah.

"We still believe that UNIFIL reporting to the UN slows down the strengthening and rearming of the terrorist organization. This is part of our current strategy to combat Hezbollah's empowerment while concurrently building our capabilities in case we need to return Lebanon to the Stone Age, as you mentioned regarding security. Let me be clear, any place where there are missiles and Hezbollah command posts that serve Hezbollah's arsenal against us is a target in the event of a conflict. This is also part of the diplomatic struggle I engage here to provide legitimacy for what the IDF may have to do there in the future."

"Working with the UN for a strategic plan to promote the fight against anti-Semitism"

At the beginning of the year, it was reported that there has been an increase of almost 50% in the number of incidents of anti-Semitism on various campuses in the United States, with 230 cases of hate crimes against Jews compared to 160 the previous year. Gilad Erdan, who initiated the decision against Holocaust denial, considers this ugly phenomenon. "I passed the second decision ever since the establishment of the state, dealing with the fight against Holocaust denial and imposing responsibility on internet companies to remove content that distorts the memory of the Holocaust. We are working extensively here to get UN bodies to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and many other actions. I am invited to speak on campuses. I work with the ambassadors of countries and the UN to combat anti-Semitism, to promote awareness, to instill education, and to advance legislation."

Does the UN have responsibility for what happens on campuses?

"It has a responsibility to set an example in the fight against anti-Semitism, as it was established as part of the lessons of World War II and the Holocaust to prevent racial hatred. Anti-Semitism is the oldest form of racial hatred. The UN should have been at the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, aside from the decision I passed through the states, we do not see the Secretary-General and UN bodies doing that. So, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day last year, I confronted the Secretary-General in his presence about the many words spoken but empty actions."

Antisemitism in the USA (Photo: Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com)

"I'm constantly fighting; we're now dealing with the UN, which, like the government, has also come up with a strategic plan to promote the fight against anti-Semitism, primarily within the UN bodies. UNRWA allows anti-Semitic textbooks and content. We're constantly in a daily struggle to change the negative things happening within UN institutions. Unfortunately, we are still very far from seeing commitment and an effective action plan from these bodies. It's not under Israel's control, but primarily within those organizations where anti-Semitism is taking place."

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