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Gilad Erdan

Gilad Erdan is working to ramp up bipartisan support for Israel.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Israel’s new ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, arrived in Washington in January, replacing veteran diplomat Ron Dermer, who was in the post for eight years.

With his dual roles, Erdan will be handling both international pressure at the UN in New York and the Israel-U.S. relationship under the new Biden administration, in addition to serving as the face of Israel for both the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as for the American Jewish community.

To accomplish these herculean tasks, Erdan will shuttle back and forth between New York – the city with the largest Jewish population in the U.S. – and Washington. Erdan recently told The Forward reporter Jacob Kornbluh that he will be taking a “big tent” approach to engaging America’s Jews.

He said that whether it’s a dispute over religious issues or how to contain Iran, support for Israel can remain constant.

“Not every disagreement should lead to a crisis,” Erdan said, adding that he feels he has the skills to work through possible disagreements. “You don’t cut your ties with Israel because you disagree with one, two or three political decisions that were made.”

Talking about Israel’s upcoming elections on March 23, the fourth in the past two years, Erdan quipped to Kornbluh that while Israel’s democratic system was different than America’s, it remains robust and strong.

“Israel doesn’t need to prove anymore that we are the most vibrant democracy not only in the Middle East, but around the world,” he said. “Every few months, we allow you to change your mind and give you another opportunity to influence.”

The 50-year-old Erdan started life as a precocious politician. While he was growing up in the port city of Ashkelon, his mother predicted that one day he would become Israel’s state comptroller because he was always pointing out what needed to be fixed at school. After getting discharged from the IDF with the rank of captain, he got an early start in politics and by age 26 was already an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his first term in office.

Part of Erdan’s current mission is ensuring that the Jewish State’s relationship with the American officials and its general public remains strong, regardless of the party with which they affiliate.

“I feel strong support for Israel in the mainstream of the Democratic Party,” he said, having already met with more than 20 members of Congress as well as prominent Jewish Democrats like Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and White House chief of staff, and numerous heads of Jewish organizations.

Erdan tweets constantly to document his efforts, including three days of meetings with black leaders that included a tour of civil rights sites in South Carolina and Alabama.

With the Democrats, he’ll seek common ground on issues like climate change as well as police reform and civil rights, a strong point for him as Israel’s former minister of security in charge of policing who has dealt with racial issues back home.

“Politics is a profession,” he explained. “And if you have those skills you can use them to do good and to promote positive things about your country.”

Israel-U.S. relations have started out in 2021 with positive signs of bipartisan strength in Washington, Erdan said, noting that the Biden administration has already announced it is maintaining several of the core key policy decisions that were made during the Trump years.

These include keeping the American embassy in Jerusalem, advancing the Abraham Accords to add more peace treaties with Arab countries, and supporting Israel’s opposition to the International Criminal Court’s biased investigation of Israel over unfounded Palestinian allegations of war crimes.

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