Lehigh Valley

Israeli consul general delves into meaning of Jewish state, and issues

Speech celebrated nation's 70th anniversary

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Israel’s strong economy, the possibility of a two-state solution, and what the creation of the nation means to the Jewish people, were among the topics Israeli Ambassador and Consul General Dani Dayan discussed in a speech commemorating Israel’s 70th birthday at the Jewish Community Center in Allentown Tuesday.

Dayan, who grew up in Buenos Aires and immigrated to Israel with his family in 1971, is responsible for consuls in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio and Pennsylvania. He has served as the consul general of Israel in New York since August 2016.

He said there is no “greater privilege” than representing the Jewish state.

Dayan illustrated what he believes the creation of the state of Israel has done for the Jewish people by telling a story of his late father, who at six months old in the early 1920’s was brought over the border from Ukraine into Poland. Ukraine at the time was persecuting Jews.

To prevent his father from crying and thus exposing the family to being caught by the authorities, his family put him into a potato sack and stuffed cloth into his mouth.

Many years later, his father became an ambassador to Guatemala and traveled over that country’s border by plane with a diplomatic corps accompanying him.

Dayan’s father told the president of Guatemala the story of how he had been transported across an international border when he was a baby. 

The contrast between the humiliating way his father had to be sneaked across the border into Poland before Israel’s founding as a state and the dignified way he was able to cross the border into Guatemala in an official capacity years later shows how much Israel’s status as a country has transformed the Jewish experience from one of persecution to one of “independence and respect.”

Israel has gone through a dramatic transformation over the last 30 years, changing from an economically struggling state to a country with a booming economy that boasts the strongest currency in the world, Dayan said. 

Israel does continue to have economic inequality but overall is doing well, Dayan said.

Despite some who say that Israel is becoming isolated from the rest of the world, Dayan said, Israel has improved relations with most countries over the last five to 10 years.

Israel has developed political relations with India and China, Dayan said, joking that Israel along with the two other countries constitutes one-third of the world.

Dayan said that relations between Israel and African countries have seen an “incredible change” recently, and that communications between Israel and Africa have improved greatly after decades of strained relations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited six African countries in the last 18 months, Dayan said.

The current generation has two obligations, Dayan said. One is to ensure that the state of Israel remains a “strong, secure and thriving country.” The second is to make sure that Jewish communities around the world continue to thrive.

He note that to fulfill one and not both of these obligations would be a “tragedy.”

When asked whether a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians was possible, Dayan said “yes and no.”

Israel had made several offers to the Palestinians for a two-state solution, but was rebuffed. Dayan emphasized that Prime Minister Netanyahu has said he is open to a two-state solution and that he means it.

Dayan said that he would be open to the U.S. acting as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

In response to a question about the recent U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the U.S. embassy there, Dayan said that he “welcomed” the development, calling it “long overdue.”

Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is “as natural as moving a refrigerator from the bedroom to the kitchen,” meaning that the embassy belongs in Jerusalem just as a refrigerator belongs in the kitchen.

Among the challenges to Israel is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, Dayan said. The recent nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers that limited the country’s development of nuclear capabilities does not go far enough, he said.

When asked what his hopes were for Israel’s next 70 years, Dayan simply said that he wanted peace for the country.

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