Ron Brummer, who previously held diplomatic positions in Chile and Mexico, spoke to the club for more than an hour, covering topics from Israel’s position in the Middle East in terms of facing threats from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iran to the economic conditions of the country. Israel’s current conflict with Hamas, and what it represents in the region, made up the bulk of his remarks.
“Now Israel is fighting Hamas because we happen to be in the same region. We are the forefront of the western modern democratic civilization and its conflict with the radical, fundamental Islamic. I am not saying that the entire Arab or Muslim world is fundamental, is heretical. Absolutely not,” Brummer said. “We happen to have 1.5 billion Muslims around the world ... about 15 percent are categorized as radical.
“Now 15 percent out of anything is not too much, but 15 percent out of 1.5 billion people is a lot. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Israel is right in the center of the most radical, fundamentalist region in the world.”
Though Brummer said Hamas was not an “existential threat” to Israel, he stated rocket attacks were severe enough for Israel to retaliate. However, the recently discovered tunnels dug under the Gaza and Israeli border came as a “shock.”
“Those tunnels were supposed to come out on the other side in those villages in order to have a huge terror attack when 10, 20, 30, 40 people come out with their weapons and start butchering and slaughtering everyone around. I thank God that we had this operation right now and that we destroyed — right now we have destroyed all the tunnels that we are aware of,” he said.
Citing reports about the Israel Defense Force striking civilian structures in Gaza, Brummer explained how Hamas is using civilian areas to store its weapons and using schools as launching sites for rockets. In one case, Brummer continued, Hamas is storing missiles, launchers and other munitions in the first two floors of a major hospital.
“The problem is that Hamas is using the population in Gaza as human shields,” Brummer said. “What is Hamas doing? Hamas is shooting missiles —and we have thousands of videos and pictures to prove it. They’re shooting a missile from a kindergarten, expecting Israel to shoot back in the same place in order to destroy the launcher and killing a few Palestinian kids so they can come out to BBC and CNN and say, ‘Wow, look at the atrocity Israel is doing. This is genocide.’”
Brummer also explained the Iron Dome system Israel possesses, which has the ability to intercept rockets in midair. He said the system was partially funded with U.S. aid, which came from taxpayer dollars.
“Iron Dome is an Israel technology sponsored by your money. It is taxpayers’ money and I thank each and every one of your for that because your money helps save Israeli lives on a daily basis,” he said.
Though there have been reports about President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sometimes having a strained relationship, Brummer believed the U.S. and Israel are still close as allies.
“This is the only country [where] we have so many values and shared interests and it doesn’t matter if our prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu or your president is Barack Obama or George Bush. There are shared values and interests that are much higher and much bigger than either one of those people and the fact that we have the U.S. on our side is our biggest guarantee for continued survival in this madhouse,” he said.
The true threat to Israel, Brummer believed, comes from Iran and its attempts to build a nuclear weapon. Though negotiations to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon have been extended, Brummer said removing the sanctions placed upon the country took away any drive for Iranian leaders to strike a deal.
“This is a completely new era in the historical development of the Middle East. This will create an arms race. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, other countries immediately will try to get their hands on a nuclear weapon and this will be a catastrophe. And this is not an Israel problem. This is a U.S. problem, a global problem. An arms race in the Middle East is probably the best way for a third world war,” he said.
Following his remarks, Brummer took questions from Exchange Club members, handling topics ranging from Israel’s strong, start-up-friendly economy, to how Muslims living in Israel have the same rights as Jews living within the country.
Club member Jeff Lewis said he invited Brummer to speak to the club due to the new conflict in Gaza being so prominent in the news.
“We read about Israel in the news every day. We read it. We see it. We hear about it. I just thought it would be real neat to have a perspective from an Israeli citizen who is involved in the Israeli government and represents Israel here in the southeastern U.S. to give us his perspective on things. Maybe shed some light to us that we might not otherwise get through national or international media,” he said.
Having the chance to speak to smaller communities and their leaders was something Brummer said he enjoyed.
“Well our consulate in Atlanta is in charge of six states. We are only two diplomats who have to cover six governors, senators, Congressman, mayors and everything and unfortunately we don’t have the privilege and the opportunity to get to relatively small towns like Cartersville too often,” he said. “For me, I think it’s the second time I’ve been visiting a small town, let’s say, and it’s a huge privilege and an honor to see so much friendship and so much pro-Israel sentiment in a place that you would have thought had never heard of Israel before. It’s a great honor and pleasure to be here.”