During the online program, held just after Israel’s 73rd Independence Day, Erdan noted that his central role as ambassador is to strengthen bipartisan American support for Israel and build ties between it and different communities in the U.S., to “fight all forms of anti-Semitism,” to extend the “circle of peace” that was expanded with the recent Abraham Accords and to combat “the existential threat that is posed by Iran.”
In discussing the endemic bias against Israel at the U.N., Erdan noted that many member states of the U.N. often do not vote based on their own strong bilateral relations with Israel but instead as part of regional or other blocs, creating outcomes that don’t reflect the actual situation of Israel in the world. “It doesn’t mean at all that we are isolated,” Erdan said. He emphasized that U.N. resolutions are often detached from the realities on the ground.
Regarding the dangers to Israel posed by Iran, Erdan said, “For me it is outrageous to see that the U.N. doesn’t take this threat seriously. How is it possible that one member state promises to destroy another and there is no resolution against it?”
Discussing his efforts to strengthen bipartisan support for Israel in the U.S., Erdan spoke of his trip to the American South, where he visited sites of importance to the civil rights movement and was accompanied by key African-American leaders. He pointed to Jewish and Black communities’ shared experience of persecution and fighting bigotry.
As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, Erdan said that combating anti-Semitism is an issue close to his heart. He spoke about two initiatives he is currently promoting at the U.N.: One to combat the dangerous phenomenon of Holocaust-denial and another to have U.N. bodies adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
The ambassador thanked B’nai B’rith for being a critical ally in the fight against anti-Semitism. “B’nai B’rith has been a cornerstone of Jewish advocacy efforts at the U.N.” Erdan said. “In fact, I believe you were the first major Jewish organization at the U.N.’s founding—even before Israel was a state. So the longevity and the dedication with which B’nai B’rith engages with U.N. leaders, not only in New York but also in Paris, in Geneva and other places is remarkable… I think that your work in civil society is the perfect complement to my efforts here in the public sector.”
Erdan is Israel’s 18th ambassador to the U.N. and 19th ambassador to the U.S. He is the first person in 60 years to hold both positions. The other person to hold both positions simultaneously was Abba Eban.
He previously served as a senior minister in the Israeli government and a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. He has served as minister of strategic affairs, minister of public security, minister of communications and minister of environmental protection.
The program is available to watch on B’nai B’rith’s YouTube channel here.