Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, has issues with the Palestinian bid for statehood. Not only is it harming the peace process, he said, it is also distracting the international community from the world’s real problems.
“There’s hunger in Africa, millions are suffering of malnutrition, there is a genocide going on in Syria, huge problems of human rights everywhere, and all of this U.N. is going crazy because of the Palestinians,” Ayalon said as he rushed from one meeting to another at the U.N. headquarters. “The Palestinians are taking up resources, both intellectual and bureaucratic, instead of letting the U.N. deal with the real problems of the world.”
As if to stress the point, Ayalon walks into one of the U.N. conference halls to talk about the threat of desertification, and as it turns out, Israel has a lot to say on this issue. In a speech filled with acronyms and scientific lingo, Ayalon, who was elected to the Knesset as part of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, laid out an Israeli offer to help fight the spread of arid lands.
“Israel is not alone,” he said later, “When it comes to international cooperation in fighting terror, agriculture, food safety, we are a country that other nations look up to.” Ayalon believes this is the real world and he refers to the world of debates over Palestinian statehood as a “virtual” one. But as he left the hall reporters from around the world follow him. All wanted to ask about Palestine. None seem to care much about desertification.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.