HH: I’m joined now by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Ron Dermer. Mr. Ambassador, welcome. First of all, my condolences, and I’m sure the entire audience, to the loss of three of your citizens. One of them was also an American. Tell us what we know this afternoon about the three teenagers who were murdered.
RD: Well, first of all, thank you very much for those condolences. I know that it’s shared by your listeners and to people throughout America who in the last 18 days while we were looking for these three teenagers expressed their sympathy. And I received, you know, thousands of letters and emails. And people across America who were standing very strongly by Israel’s side as we were hoping and praying that these teenagers, these three boys, would be found alive. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and they were found murdered. They were essentially kidnapped and executed by Hamas, this terrorist organization. And right now, as we speak, Israel’s Security Cabinet is meeting and deciding how to respond to what is a really heinous crime.
HH: Now Mr. Ambassador, the New York Times writing this up this afternoon in an article by Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner begins, “Israel searchers on Monday found three bodies believed to be those of the three missing Israeli teenagers who were abducted more than two weeks ago in the occupied West Bank, the government of Israel said.” I am curious if you actually, if the government of Israel actually referred to this as the occupied West Bank.
RD: No, we don’t. You know, we have a territorial dispute with the Palestinians. We call these areas Judea and Samaria. The world often refers to them as the West Bank. But it’s a disputed territory between us and the Palestinians, and we hope that one day we can have a Palestinian peace partner who will sit with us around a negotiating table so we can come up with a solution that will bring peace. Unfortunately right now, we have on the Palestinian side, an alliance between President Abbas on one hand, and Hamas, a terror organization on the other. Now people know what Hamas is. You consider it, the United States considers it a terror organization. The Europeans consider it a terror organization. Canada, Japan, even Egypt considers Hamas a terror organization, and we know what they’re about. They fire thousands of rockets at Israel cities, they dispatch suicide bombers to blow up our buses and pizza shops and cafes, and now they’re responsible for the kidnapping and execution of these three boys. And Hamas is a terror organization that is not just simply a terror organization. They’re a genocidal terror organization. They call for the murder of Jews worldwide. So everyone knows what Hamas is. And so the question is what is President Abbas doing sitting in a government with this organization? And what we hope will happen in the wake of this very heinous crime is that the world will send a very clear message to President Abbas that it is unacceptable for him to sit in a government that is backed by this unreformed terror organization. President Abbas came out against the kidnappings, and we appreciate that. And he’s condemned terrorism, and we appreciate that as well. But you can’t on the one hand come out against the kidnappings, and then sit with the kidnappers. You can’t condemn terrorism and then embrace the terrorists as a member and form a government, essentially, with them. And we hope that President Abbas will turn the corner on terrorism and go towards peace. And one of the issues, Hugh, that I think is very important to raise now is people have ignored this issue for years, is the culture of terrorism that has been created in Palestinian areas, in Palestinian society, a culture where this a constant incitement against Jews, against Israel, against Christians, by the way, as well. And it’s incitement in the schools, in the media, you have squares that are named after killers, you have people who are mass murderers who are called heroes. This has to end. And if the Palestinians hear a very clear message form the world in the wake of this crime, that they need to turn the corner, and they need to turn their backs on terrorism, then maybe there can be some light at the end of the tunnel. But right now, it looks very bad.
HH: And Mr. Ambassador, that actually leads me to an apology I have to make. I am actually an elder in the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A. I’m not currently a ruling elder. I served as an elder twice, and once an elder, always an elder in the PCUSA. And my denomination did a horrible thing, a terrible thing last week, calling for the disinvestment in three American partners with the government of Israel, and then sending a “open letter” of the PCUSA to our American Jewish interfaith partners that talked about the Israeli occupation in Palestine. So first, I do genuinely apologize. I do not believe that the general assembly is representative of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. But this disinvestment movement, whether small or large, one company or a hundred, simply overlooks that issue you just touched on, which is Israel wants to have peace. There’s no one to make peace with.
RD: Well, listen, first of all, I appreciate very much your statement, and I think your megaphone is probably just as big as anybody else in the Presbyterian movement, so I appreciate very much you saying that. I think the decision that was made by the Presbyterian leadership is just downright shameful. I mean, especially as a Christian organization, we are at a time right now where Christians are literally fleeing for their lives throughout the Middle East, in country after country. The one place where Christians actually are free to worship as they please is in the state of Israel. And for a Christian organization to choose now to divest from Israel, at any time to divest from Israel, but particularly now, with what you see happening in the region, is astounding. It’s a complete collapse of any morality, of any moral clarity. And I think our prime minister said it best when he went on Meet the Press last Sunday. I don’t know if you saw it. But he said that he would call on the leaders who called for the divestment from Israel to get on a plane and come to Israel and see for themselves where the type of religious freedom, and the type of freedom in general that we have, rights of minorities and rights of women, and equality and liberty as you understand these concepts in the United States, come see it in Israel, and then get on a bus and go to Lebanon and go to Syria, and go to Iraq, and go to Libya, and go throughout the region. And then you will see the truth. And then you’ll see how outrageous this is. But he gave them two pieces of advice. First of all, when you’re on that bus ride outside of Israel, don’t tell them that you’re a Christian. And secondly, make sure that it’s an armored bus.
HH: Let me ask you as well, Mr. Ambassador, the PCUSA struggled to distinguish themselves, saying, “the assembly specifically stated that our action to selectively divest was not in support of the global BDS movement.” I’m curious if that makes a whit of difference to you. It doesn’t to me. It’s all part of the blinkard, blind, to Hamas, to Hezbollah, to the anti-Semitism across the world, to this culture of terror. It’s all part of the blindness which is now enveloping so much of the West.
RD: Listen, you know, I don’t know what the motivations and intentions are of people who decided to back this divestment initiative. It might be that some of them, they think they’re “saving Israel from itself” and all this nonsense that is often spewed. All I can say is this. 99% of the people who deal with this movement, this boycott-divestment-sanction movement, are about the destruction of Israel. And those who support the state of Israel should never stand with those who seek our destruction, period. Whether they mean to, or they don’t mean to, you should never stand with those who are enemies of the state of Israel, and do not want peace. All they want is the destruction of the state of Israel. And that’s why I think this was a very big mistake, and I hope that other Presbyterians like you will raise their voice in a very clear and powerful way to show that they don’t represent them.
HH: And a last question, Mr. Ambassador, as you mentioned, the cabinet is meeting tonight. When will the details of the deaths of these teenagers be revealed? We don’t know yet if they were tortured, for example, or if they were murdered immediately. Do you have any idea?
RD: Well, I don’t want to get into that right now. I think, you know, we’re a serious country and we have a serious process by which we make these things available to the press, the media. There’s also the sensitivities regarding the families and when they will know information. So I think that you can expect over the days ahead that you’ll get a full understanding of what happened. But nothing will take away from really this heinous act that was a kidnapping and an execution. And I think everybody who is a parent, who has children, can understand what those families are feeling in Israel, and frankly, what all the Israeli public are feeling. Millions of Israelis were united with them in solidarity in the hope that they would be found, that they would be brought safe and sound back to their families. And every Israeli who’s a parent, every American who’s a parent, I think, can sympathize with our public in Israel. We’re grieving today, but we’re a strong and powerful country, and we will do what we have to do to defend ourselves.
HH: Ambassador Dermer, again, our condolences. Thank you for joining us and spending some time with us on this very sad day for Israel and the world.
End of interview.