Israel's UN Ambassador Talks to VOA About Jerusalem, the Holocaust, Syria
(VOA): Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to address the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday during a routine meeting on the Middle East, and reports say he is expected to focus on U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Last December, Trump broke with long-standing U.S. policy to say Washington would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and start preparations for a new mission there. In response to Trump’s announcement, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging nations “not to establish diplomatic missions in the historic city of Jerusalem.” Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, said Washington’s position as mediator of a peace deal was over, although the White House said the U.S. was “as committed to the peace process as ever.” Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state, whereas Israel has declared the whole city to be its “united and eternal” capital. WATCH: Greta Van Susteren interviews Israel's UN ambassador Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, discussed the Trump administration's decision as part of a recent wide-ranging interview in Washington with VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren. When asked whether he believed the embassy would be moved when past U.S. presidents have made similar promises, Danon said, “I cannot tell you when and where it will be, the exact location, but I think it was a bold decision." He also said, “It reminds me of the decision of President [Harry] Truman, who also took a bold decision to recognize Israel, and I think we will see other countries following the U.S.” “There is no reason why all embassies will not move to Jerusalem,” Danon said. Danon was in Washington to present Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales with an award for Guatemala’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following Trump’s announcement about the U.S. mission. Separately, the Israeli envoy also told Van Susteren that he, Danon, intended to confront Abbas about payments by the Palestinian Authority to families of Palestinians who carry out attacks on Israeli targets. “It is not about argument about land or territory, it is about recognizing the right of the Jews to live peacefully in Israel,” Danon said. Danon said he speaks to the Security Council almost every three months about it but that the council is “not willing to confront the Palestinians.” Congress is considering withholding financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if it continues the practice. Israel and Saudi Arabia Amid reports that relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia are thawing over the common threat of Iran, Danon acknowledged Israel does have “strong relationships with other moderate Arab countries in the region,” including on sharing intelligence regarding terrorism. “If we would know tomorrow that a terrorist would be trying to board a plane, it could be in Riyadh or Hong Kong, or in Berlin, we would share that information.” Danon accused Iran of supporting terrorism throughout the region, including with 82,000 troops in Syria. “I think we see today they have a lot of free money. Instead of investing that money in education and infrastructure, they invest it in terrorism worldwide,” Danon said. Several days ago, Israel said it had dealt “severe blows” to Iranian and Syrian forces inside Syria and would continue to combat any further aggression. Israel said the raids came after Syria shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter with anti-aircraft fire, marking the first time since 1982 that Israel had lost a warplane in battle. The pilots ejected, although Israel said one of them was severely injured. Several Israeli officials have said they refuse to accept Iran establishing a military presence in Syria. Iran denies doing so. Iran supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's conflict. ‘You cannot rewrite history’ Turning to Europe, historians and the Israeli government reacted angrily after Polish President Andrzej Duda outlawed speech that blames Poland for crimes against humanity committed during Nazi Germany’s occupation. The law would make it a crime to call the Nazi genocide of Jews a Polish crime, or refer to the Nazi death camps as Polish death camps, even though some of the most brutal Nazi atrocities took place on Polish soil. “You cannot rewrite history,” Danon said. “It is true that the camps were built by Nazis but you cannot hide the fact that many, many people in Poland cooperated with Nazis.” Duda requested a constitutional review of the law to determine whether it infringes on freedom of speech. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have compared the legislation to Holocaust denial. Poland was home to one of the world's most thriving Jewish populations before Nazi Germany invaded in 1939. Israel-Africa relations On another subject, Danon defended a decision by the Jewish state to deport thousands of Africans to their countries of origin. Israel recently began issuing deportation notices, saying many of the Africans are economic migrants, not refugees. Danon said, “It is a very sensitive issue for us. You have to look at the facts; you have dozens of thousands of Africans who came to Israel to work.” He acknowledged that they can earn three times as much in Israel as they would in places like Eritrea or South Sudan. “So for them to come and to live in Israel, I can understand why they are doing it,” he said. Danon also said that to encourage the Africans to leave Israel, the government is offering them $3,500 along with one-way transportation. Almost 40,000 people face an uncertain future. Those facing deportation have the option to take the offer within two months or face imprisonment. “We know we have to do it in a humanitarian way, and when I was in the government, we thought about incentives, not to force them to leave, but to pay them to give them incentives to go back to their original countries and to continue with their life,” Danon said. Israel is sending the migrants to Rwanda after assessing it as a safe country with a growing economy. Rwanda denies Israeli claims that it has agreed to take in the migrants.
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