It is complete right of Israel to protect herself – Ron Adam
According to the website of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Israel, Ambassador Ron Adam has served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1990. During his first period at the ministry, he was a personal assistant to the Director-General and dealt mainly with the Oslo Process and the economic peace with the Palestinians. In 1997 he started a long and interesting period of 15 years dealing with all aspect of the United Nations. He started in New York, serving as a counselor for economic and social affairs at the Permanent Mission of Israel.
In 2004, two years after his return from New York, he became the director of the UN Department at the Foreign Ministry and engaged mainly with the efforts to promote the relations between Israel with the United Nations, as well as the image of the UN among the Israeli public. As part of these efforts, he initiated the UNGA resolution on Holocaust Remembrance and International Commemoration Day.
He served as a member and the chairman of a UN committee on Program and Coordination and at the same time promoted an ODA law in the Knesset. In 2008 Ron started his post as Deputy Ambassador of Israel to the UN in Geneva where he was in charge on relations with numerous International Organizations and Specialized agencies, such as the ILO, WHO, UNEP, UNHCR, IOM and ITU. Upon his return to Israel Ron has engaged in the OECD membership of Israel, and now in the Energy file, including the relations with the International Renewable Energy Agency. Ron is committed to promoting Israel’s engagement in the International Aid efforts and the in trying to increase the ODA of the country.
Ambassador Ron Adam was the Special Envoy on Energy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for the relations between diplomacy and Energy. In November 2018 he was nominated as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Israel to the Republic of Rwanda, and commenced his ambassadorship on May 1st, 2019 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Dolapo Aina sat down with Ambassador Ron Adam on Monday, 24th of May 2021, few days after the eleven-day Israel-Palestine confrontation ended. Do read the excerpts of the extensive interview.
How many confrontations and ceasefires can Israel and Palestine handle and cope with?
Honestly, I don’t know how many. We have been in this conflict for more than one hundred and twenty years. The first one was in the late 80s in the 19th century. Then there were few confrontations in the 20s and 30s under the British Mandate in the 20th century. There were riots in cities like Rafa, Jerusalem like we saw recently in the month of May 2021. It has been there for between 120 – 140 years and even more. So, we need a lot of patience. Let us say, if we mention 1947 after a long British Mandate and after the Turks were there. 1947 was a crucial year. It was the United Nations had discussed The British Mandate; the Mandate of the British was handed to the United Nations in 1947. They could not bare it anymore. They wanted the United Nations to decide what to do. This is the origin of what is called the question of Palestine. It is the agenda item at the UN. It is called the question of Palestine. It was the British who put framed the question; what should we do with Palestine? Since then, and by the way, the UN still holds this agenda item.
The Arabs did not like the idea of a Jewish State. Although, we were there two thousand years before, long before Islam came to the world. So, in 1947, we were happy. My mother who was then twelve years old went dancing on the streets of Tel Aviv that finally, we had a State and it was acknowledged by the United Nations. But The Arabs did not want the State. They did not us. They did not want the partition plan. They voted against it. But the UN voted in favour of it. At the end.
It was a majority of two-third. Since then, there were wars; 1947 and 1948. There were two wars. One was before the British left and one after the British left. There were also other wars in 1956, 1967, 1973. In 1978, the Egyptians began to say, let us have them around and let us sign a peace treaty. Anwar Sadat was in Israel etc. And the rest is history as we have had peace for about thirty years or more with Egypt. Then, there was the Oslo Peace Agreement in 1993. The Jordanians signed the peace treaty in 1994. You see that it has been a long time we have been there.
Now, Hamas is another story. Hamas took over Gaza which was completely vacated by us. We were there until 2004. Back then, no one liked the place. The Egyptians did not want it. But we were there and we settled Jews and settlements there. But in 2004, the Prime Minster of Israel, Ariel Sharon decided to unilaterally withdraw with no agreements with anyone from Gaza. We hoped that the Palestinians would take over from Abu Mazan and we would be able to build the new Hong Kong of the Middle East there because they had all the possibilities. They decided to have elections which we were forced to agree to by the Americans since America knows what democracy is and what elections are and elections need to be.
During the elections, Hamas practically did a coup d’état, killed many Palestinians and officials of the Palestinian Authority, the moderates, took over by force and via elections which had a lot of chaos. And began to build war economy instead of peace economy. To build rockets and tunnels instead of civilian institutions and economy. And since then, under the instruction of Iran (it is a long arm of Iran) from time to time, they use their armed weapons (only God knows where they get the money from) and they launch rockets with no reason (we are not there and there is no conflict on the land.)
Coming back to the question of why The Holocaust happened? Why The Genocide happened? There is no reason. In this case, it is just the main domination of Iran, or just hatred and jealousy towards Jews. Only God knows. We would have to protect ourselves in the future. There is no other way.
In 2006, elections were held in Gaza and Hamas won elections and anyway you look at it, Hamas won the elections. Now, was it a big error that Israel and the Western countries did not recognise the victory of Hamas in Gaza back then?
I don’t know. It is something from the past. I don’t know. What would happen if we recognised, would it be different? I don’t think so. To answer your question, I don’t think it was a mistake.
If an election were held now in West Bank without another postponement by the Government of Palestine, would Israel be comfortable with who the winner in West Bank; irrespective if it is Fatah or Hamas?
This is one of the reasons for the recent skirmish and circle of events. The President of the Palestinian Authority postponed the elections. He didn’t want to have it because he realised who is going to win. So, on one hand, most of the Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank want to live in peace and prosperity. Whilst the extremists live from building warfare, tunnels etc but how much money do the leaders earn from building warfare? Most of the Palestinians want to live in peace, however, they do elect Hamas (probably Hamas would be elected now and why?) Probably, as a form of protest against corruption as they perceive it to be in the government led by Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas).
They vote against what they have which is normal in a way (you protest). But do they think about what would happen; the aftermath? They don’t. What would happen is that Hamas would take over and build another terror state in West Bank which would be disastrous for the Palestinians and Israel. And of course, this would be very bad and that is why we also have difficulties in one side leaving the West Bank and building a two-state solution. However, if we step out of the West Bank (or part of it), they didn’t want it. Unfortunately, the Palestinians did not want it; they wanted hundred percent (quite sad.) If we had a Hamas state in West Bank, it would be disastrous. Presently, we cannot even think of a two-state solution because we have our fears that they would be taking over West Bank and we would have rockets flying in five minutes from Ben Gurion Airport and twenty minutes from Tel Aviv (and I mean minutes in driving). It is insane and it would be very bad for both sides. So, it was the Palestinian President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) that decided to postpone the elections and it was probably a very good move. But we can see what happened.
The two-state solution involves Jerusalem being the capital of both states. From what you have said, is this still applicable?
Let me reiterate what I said. I said that currently with the danger of Hamas taking over, it is no longer possible. But who knows what the future would bring? We hope that after one hundred and forty years, something would change. But there must be a decision by the Arabs to accept Israel. Also, for example, if Iran’s regime would change, it might be a big change in the region for geopolitics. Also, in Lebanon, with Hezbollah, we don’t have any argument with the border. There is a border accepted by Lebanon and Israel since 2002 from the UN and it is called the blue line. Still, Hezbollah, from time to time, launches rockets to Israel. Why? No reason. We have no discussions about borders or land. It is all about Iran who is showing her strengths in the region and activates her agents in Lebanon and Gaza. Again, most of Iranians are good before and we have nothing against Iranians. We were very good friends in the past. If something changes, you never know.
To an incident that happened during the 11-day confrontation, war, skirmish as you might call it. Israel Defence Forces bombed the building housing amongst others Al Jazeera and Associated Press Offices in Gaza. The official reason was that the building also housed an installation owned by Hamas?
Yes. The Intelligence arm of Hamas operated from (all the buildings in Gaza) this building where Al Jazeera is located. Now, it is of course on purpose because they are protected there (they feel so.) And maybe Al Jazeera had good partnership with the agents of Hamas intelligence (Maybe, they worked together. God knows.)
Why not. But did you see the reconnaissance photo?
I saw the photo and got the information I needed as it is my job.
Of course, you did. You are a good writer.
But people who are not really exposed and people who don’t really know what is going on would still ask, but where is the evidence for this claim?
Well, evidence was probably taken away or moved out.
Now as a former journalist yourself in the 1960s, doesn’t this act of bombing the building housing media houses give licence for other governments to indirectly target media houses anytime they feel like in any guise or form?
I don’t know about other governments and I don’t care. You have to realise that we have the most morally conscious and high morale army in the world. We can not allow the launching of rockets from civilian places. They launched rockets from there and also host their intelligence arm, and were giving instructions to terrorists’ activities from there. And we called everyone in that building to leave the building (I am sure you know that). Unlike, Hamas who launch rockets indiscriminately. We had to do that.
We cannot allow and we have to send a strong signal that you cannot hide behind such buildings no matter what such building houses. I don’t know about other governments and I hope there would be no wars in the world at all (not only in this place.) I don’t expect anyone to get to the situation where there are launches of rockets into civilian places, not even one, less talk of four thousand three hundred rockets and hundreds daily. There is no place in the world that can tolerate that. And can you imagine, just one rocket landing in Kigali? That is insane. People would look at it as if it is the end of the world. Even one rocket, we could not tolerate but unfortunately, we do tolerate every now and then, rockets that are launched near the Gaza Strip. But now, they launch on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other big cities. You have to protect yourself. It is the complete right of every country to do it and to stop it. In order to stop it, we have to fire and part of it is this building. There is no other way.
From the creative and literary aspect of things. People would wonder why would Israel target a library? Why was Samir Mansour bookshop, the largest library, bookstore and publishing house in Gaza also bombed on Tuesday, 18th of May, 2021?
I have no clue about it and I am not sure it is true because I have no clue about it. Maybe, it is just propaganda.
During the eleven-day confrontation between Israel and Hamas; the Prime Minister of Israel, PM Benjamin Netanyahu showed a visiting EU leader, a drone shot down by Israel Defence Forces. And the drone was alleged to have been manufactured in Iran. Some days later, a drone manufacturing plant in Iran had an explosion. Was that a coincidence?
I can’t relate to it and I have no idea. But to the EU officials you mentioned, there were a few EU Foreign Affairs Ministers who came all the way from Europe to Israel to support her right to self-defence including the Foreign Affairs Minister of Germany (Heiko Maas). It was a very important move and we are happy about it.
Politically, there is this Israeli author and historian Yuval Noah Harare, who recently made a statement and stated that; “It is probably not a coincidence that the current wave of violence broke out just as a government was about to rise up that lean on cooperation between Jews and Arabs. There are factors on both sides that feed on hate and will do anything to prevent coexistence. We cannot let them win. It is essential to hurry up and form a government in cooperation with the Arab parties. This is the way to stop the cycle of hatred, save the fabric of our shared life and make it clear to extremists on both sides that they will not be able to destroy our country. What is your take on his comment?”
First of all, Yuval Noah Harare is a very intelligent writer. He wrote at least three books which are very popular globally. And the books describe the history and the future and he did it in an amazing. He is really a pride for Israel. Of course, I cannot relate and respond specifically to forming governments or not forming governments. I am just an officer in the Foreign Ministry. It is a very political issue as it is an internal issue. I can say that Arabs are twenty percent of the population. They deserve to be equal citizens and get equal rights if they are contributing their part (paying taxes etc). We have them represented in the parliament. Nowadays, their representation has dwindled, because they separated themselves and are not as formidable as in the past. But they are represented and they deserve the same rights as anyone else.
There are no second-tier or level of people and it should not be. If someone can form a government with Arabs, then, fine. I cannot really tell you, if I am in favour of it or against it. But I can tell you that I am in favour of the writing prowess of Yuval Noah Harare because he is very intelligent and brought about a new paradigm in writing in Israel. Other than that, there were four rounds of elections, where the leader was chosen to form a government by the President and it was not successful. This is the fourth round. I really hope that there would be a government formed because there is always a stalemate when you don’t have a budget and we need a budget. When there is no budget and no government, it is very difficult to work as an ambassador without a government. So, I am very much in favour of someone succeeding to do it. That is it.
Is there a thin line between calling Israel’s actions in Gaza, an occupation, an apartheid and being seen as anti-Semitic?
Of course, it is anti-Semitic because there is no apartheid. And Africans and those who lived in South Africa know what apartheid truly is and this is not apartheid. We are not part of Gaza, we don’t occupy Gaza. We left Gaza completely and there is no single soldier or any civilian. We have the borders. Also, the border is open most of the time because they want to work in Israel. They want to work in Israel but then, they say we occupy them. Gaza Strip is completely not occupied by Israel. If they want to export terror to Israel, we close the border. What else can we do? If they live in peace, the border would be open for trade and for movement of people. Also, with Egypt, the Egyptians close the border from their side. We close the border from our side when they talk war. If they talk war, we close; if they talk peace, we will open. So, there is no occupation or apartheid. It is just propaganda. Unfortunately, we see anti-Semitism not only in this propaganda but also in the world. There are some Palestinians who are motivated by Hamas and financed by Hamas to orchestrate acts of anti-Semitism (even in the USA.) And this has to be stopped.
What is the Iron Dome about and how effective has its deployment been over the years?
I have a personal part about the Iron Dome. My father was a scientist in the Israeli Army. Unfortunately, he died many years ago. He was one of the first people who invented The Iron Dome. It is a thing of pride. It was not called The Iron Dome when he started to do things connected to The Iron Dome. Iron Dome is the protection against rockets from different ranges (short, medium and long ranges.) What is interesting is that when the Iron Dome simultaneously detects ten, twenty, thirty missiles or less, from the same launch, every rocket has an address and the address is calculated by The Iron Dome and it knows the precise location where the rocket or rockets would land/hit.
If the rocket would land in a civilian-populated area, a rocket is sent to intercept it. If the address is an empty area without human habitation, no rocket is sent to intercept it. Again, if the address is within Gaza and you need to know that one-third of the rockets fell within Gaza. They destroyed things there. This is insane and part of the insanity. But Iron Dome knows precisely where rockets would land and in order to save rockets, it doesn’t intercept rockets fired at empty places. And when it intercepts, you have debris falling; this is why people are informed to stay in the shelter/bunker for ten minutes after the sirens are off. Unfortunately, many sirens were on during these eleven days and many people could not sleep for these 11 days practically in Israel and even in Tel Aviv. Iron Dome is the protection of persons. It was a very good decision of the Minister of Defence (which one?) and it is co-financed project with the United States of America.
Would Israel also aid in the rebuilding of Gaza?
No. I do not think so. But probably, we would do whatever we need to do if we are asked to and paid for about electricity. For there is no other way. They depend on us for electricity. So, probably, we would be doing some things. The electricity company announced that they would not do anything and can decide what they want to do even though it is a governmental parastatal. They stated that they would not repair anything until we get back the remains of our two fallen soldiers who were kidnapped six years ago. The remains of the soldiers are still been held and this is unacceptable.
This is why the electricity company has stated that they would not do anything until the remains of the soldiers are returned. I don’t know what would happen. But in principle the aid (if it comes), we would make sure it is not used to finance a war industry, tunnels, underground metro tunnels, rocket buildings; we would make sure the funds do not finance these things. We would make sure that it would not finance Hamas and we would make sure that the funds come through to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and gets to the right places. It is not easy but we would do our best to make sure.
From your perspective as a veteran Diplomat and Israel’s Ambassador to Rwanda, with the skirmishes that occurred and as things have simmered down, do you think the latest ceasefire would hold?
I am not a prophet (of course) and I can only hope that it would hold. But I don’t think so. I think that it is a matter of time until the next round. There were reasons for the first round. It was an accumulation of reasons. There was Jerusalem, it was the cancellation of elections and other reasons. They do not really need reasons to attack Israel. As we said, we have no conflict with them on anything that has to do on the ground, soil, air.
We have no argument whatsoever with them. Probably, it is the dominance of Iran. I really can’t explain it and I have tried to understand and I can’t reach any conclusion. Unless, they really think that they can get us out of Israel which is impossible. What is the matter with people? It would take time since we really tried our best to hit their known sites where it was possible without harming or killing civilians. There were many instances where pilots did not bomb anything because there were children and civilians around; they looked and they aborted missions several times. We have really tried to prolong for the interim; between the next round of conflicts. I only hope it would not be soon.
From your perspective, what do you think can bring about lasting peace in the region?
First of all, the Arab countries have to abide by the agreements. And by the way, countries like UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and others have realised that Israel is here to stay and have signed peace agreements; a very good move. The Abraham Accords was a good move. Some have not signed. Iran, which I refer to as the big Satan. And internally, I would wish very much for Iran to change for internal reasons. People who go for demonstrations are being killed for demonstrating. It is awful. People who go for elections are being killed for voting their own political candidates. It is an awful regime. I hope it would be changed soon and if it does and The Arabs accepts us to stay in the region, it would leave those who are still in denial. The Palestinians have to move on and this is what the Arab countries are telling them; move on, let us sign and see what we can still save from the two-state solution.
But of course, we cannot take the risk of letting Hamas win there. Honestly, in the past (twenty years ago), I could tell you some ideas on how to solve the problems. But now, so many dynamics and things have changed. And we really don’t want to see Hamas taking over the West Bank. We cannot see it. It is impossible. If it were ten or twenty years ago, when the international community and organisations would take part in the solutions, predicting would be possible. But now, it is impossible. You cannot ask anyone to take care of this area. There is a need to take responsibility, accountability, move on, sign peace, protect the area from not being taken over by extremists. And then, I think we have a future.
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