On the sidelines of the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly last week in Denver, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro spoke to JTA and explained why he makes a point of addressing Israelis via Twitter and Fasebook in Hebrew.
Ambassador Shapiro also touched on some burning issues.“Nowadays the public diplomacy part of an ambassador’s role is almost as or as important as the conventional diplomatic function, and there’s no better way to reach people than in their own language.... "
On the state of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship:
“It’s as strong as it’s ever been, and that is something that the military leaderships on both sides have said publicly but also told us internally that they are overwhelmed by the depth and the quality of the interchange and coordination. It takes the form, obviously, of military assistance. It takes the form of the joint technological work on missile defense, especially Arrow and Iron Dome and David’s Sling. [The Arrow is a long-range missile defense system, and the other two are short-range missile defense systems.] It takes the form of Israeli technologies that we are deploying in the U.S. military, like armor for our Bradley fighting vehicles. It takes the form of joint exercises, and we now have announced the largest-ever joint exercises to be scheduled for early 2012, breaking the record of the previous largest ever, from the fall of 2010, Juniper Cobra. It reflects a real convergence of strategic interests and recognition that we both benefit from coordinating efforts to deal with the significant strategic challenges we both face in the Middle East.”
“The president said many times that nothing's off the table when it comes to how to address the threat posed by Iran and ... it’s a determination we absolutely share with Israel to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That's why we have together with Israel and a lot of other partners built the strongest-ever sanctions regime against Iran that's had real bite ... and why we're going to be looking to increase that pressure in days to come."
Obama administration's position on settlements:
"Our position on settlements and construction in East Jerusalem hasn’t changed. We believe those kind of announcements are counterproductive to our goals of trying to get negotiations under way and trying to move toward a two-state solution that resolves the conflict on the basis of two states for two peoples. Our focus is on returning the parties to negotiations."
On relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his staff:
“Excellent. I’ve worked very closely with the prime minister and his senior advisers since 2009; they’re great professional advisers, they’re close personal friends. We speak daily, often multiple times daily, and it’s collaborative, it’s friendly, it’s a very productive working relationship. Even when there’s something that we don’t fully agree on, we talk it through and we work it out.”