INTERVIEW: Danny Ayalon on terrorism, Israeli security, and the US-Israel alliance

On November 5, I hosted Ambassador Danny Ayalon, Former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States, and the Rennert Visiting Professor of Foreign Policy Studies at Yeshiva University, on ‘JM in the AM.’

While I originally booked Ambassador Ayalon to hear his thoughts on US-Israel relations in light of the insults being hurled at Prime Minister Netanyahu from the White House and the results of the mid-term elections, fate stepped in and presented us with a much more serious jumping off point: fresh terrorist attacks in Jerusalem.

Our conversation was eye-opening, providing a rare glimpse into foreign policy at the highest levels. Here are the five most important points we explored during the interview:

(1) Israeli security is stable and strong – While Israelis are worried about the state of national security following the newest rash of terror attacks, Ambassador Ayalon assured me that the “State of Israel is more secure than any other place on earth” owing to extensive experience and the unprecedented amount of security precautions being taken on a consistent basis.

Still, he admitted that threats on security are multiplied in Israel, the remedy for which is increased intelligence work and a more prominent police presence on the streets of Israel’s major cities.

(2) There are no “lone wolf” terrorists – Though there is no intelligence that can adequately prevent “lone wolf” terrorist attacks, Ambassador Ayalon explained that this should not concern the Israeli public because no terrorist activity in the region fits that category – it is all organized. “Even if there is no formal hierarchy and structure, we know the true sources. These acts are prepared, motivated, financed and directed by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.”

(3) The US-Israel alliance is natural and unbreakable – Responding to my questions about the lack of outrage from the White House following the assassination attempt on Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick and the most recent hit-and-run terrorist activity, Ambassador Ayalon explained that he was not at all worried by the silence in Washington because there has always been a natural alliance and strategic relationship between the two countries.

He recounted that at no point during his tenure as Deputy Foreign Minister did he have to lobby or motivate any of the his US counterparts to defend Israel from a moral or political point of view – he always had great confidence in Israel’s ability to rely on vocal US support.

That said, he expressed a desire to hear the kind of supportive statements from United States – “the greatest democracy in the world” – that would calm our nerves and reassure us of this unbreakable bond.

(4) Bibi and Obama are not the barometer – When I pressed him on the issue, asserting that the White House was sending a very negative message by not reacting passionately to terrorist activity targeting Israelis, Ambassador Ayalon reiterated that the alliance between the United States and Israel is solid and strong – it’s the relationship between the White House and the Prime Minister’s office that is strained. And that relationship, he explained, is “the window through which friends and foes alike are erroneously judging the relationship.”

The strain is only so pronounced because the offices of the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel have always enjoyed a comfortable camaraderie and a high level of mutual respect and trust. Ambassador Ayalon believes that it has reached a point where Islamist groups may be fooled into thinking that an attack on Israel would go unanswered by the US. But he assured me that such a thought process has no bearing on reality.

(5) Republicans and Democrats agree on support for Israel – Perhaps the most poignant moment of the interview was a story that Ambassador Ayalon told to explain why US-Israel relations would not suffer in the slightest in response to the Republic domination of congress.

In 2002, he brought then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Washington to meet with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott. Senator Daschle began the meeting by stating that one wouldn’t usually find him in the same room as Senator Lott because they couldn’t agree on anything. The exception, however, was support for Israel. Senator Lott concurred: “When it comes to Israel, there are no Republicans or Democrats, we are all Americans.”

Ambassador Ayalon believes that this is the best possible attitude, one that he hopes all Israelis will adopt. “There are no Republicans or Democrats, you are all Americans, so whatever political decisions America makes we need to respect them and work with them.”
As I expressed to Ambassador Ayalon on the air, my hope is that the relationship between the White House and the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem improves to reflect the reality – our unbreakable alliance – and that our President decides that the best possible legacy he can leave is a stronger and more secure Israel.

Ambassador Ayalon said it best: “There is no substitute for the United States as the leader of the free world, it is indispensable. But they must recognize that there is no better and more capable ally than Israel. Likeminded, free countries must stick together, especially the US and Israel. The alliance is crucial.”


You can listen to the full interview with Ambassador Danny Ayalon here:

About the Author
Nachum Segal is a Jewish radio icon and the founder of the Nachum Segal Network (NSN), the Jewish world's premier English-language internet radio network. Nachum is best known as the force behind 'JM in the AM - Jewish Moments in the Morning,' the #1 Jewish Radio Show in the world and the radio program of record in the Jewish community for over 30 years.
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