It doesn’t take much to get Daniel “Danny” Ayalon started when you bring up the International Court of Justice.
In the Bay Area for the first time earlier this week, Israel’s ambassador to the United States referred to the recently concluded hearings on Israel’s security fence as “a charade,” “an example of how we get shortchanged” and “absolutely cynical that terrorists were not being put on trial but the victims of terror were.”
Not surprisingly, he doesn’t think The Hague hearings will go Israel’s way.
“I predict they will rule against us. Their advice to the [U.N.] General Assembly will be against the fence, but what else is new?” said Ayalon, whose Bay Area swing was originally scheduled for exactly a year ago — until the war in Iraq kept him busy in the nation’s capital. Ayalon, who became ambassador to the United States in July 2002, was previously Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s foreign policy adviser.
He blamed the international outcry over the fence to an orchestrated “big lie” campaign that he even compared to the “Joseph Goebbels propaganda machine — if you repeat a lie, no matter how blatant, often enough, people will start to believe it if it is not countered.”
“Big Lie” No. 1: The fence is a land grab. If that’s the case, he asked, why didn’t Israel snatch that territory “10, 20, 25 or 30 years ago? We didn’t want to do it; we wanted a political dialogue and we were willing to pay a painful price to make peace and reconcile.”
“Big Lie” No. 2: The fence is often depicted as something Israel erected on a lark. It’s a terror-prevention mechanism and, he points out, it’s doing its job, and has additionally reduced crime and illegal immigration.
“We have taken down much greater fences when we made peace with Egypt. It can be taken down any time,” he said.
“This is not to be a border, it is not on a permanent basis. As long as there is no terror, there is no fence. I do recognize maybe, in some individual cases, it will make life more complicated, less convenient [for Palestinians]. But, when you see what is at stake here, human rights or human lives, there’s no question about what gets precedent: human lives and protection.”
While Ayalon has plenty to say about the necessity of the fence and the injustice of berating Israel for seeking to protect itself, the ambassador stresses that Israel is a land of more than fences and terrorism.
Perhaps the most intriguing event on his Bay Area visit was a meeting with Stanford President John Hennessy regarding a joint Israeli-Jordanian-Stanford-Columbia scientific venture entitled “Bridging the Rift.”
Both the Israelis and Jordanians have donated about 100 acres for a scientific facility that will be built, literally, on the nations’ border.
Ayalon said the facility would offer Columbia’s and Stanford’s top scientists and students the chance to work with Israelis and Jordanians to, among other endeavors, make an end run around President Bush’s restrictions on stem-cell research.
“This is an opportunity for real cooperation between our nations, and should serve as a model for the region at large,” he said.
“Not just for Jordanians and Israelis, but, hopefully in the future, Palestinians, Syrians and others will join.”