It was a pretty day-clear blue skies and spring like temperatures in Pensacola, yesterday. That warmth was radiated as ex- Israeli Ambassador to Washington for Congressional Relations, Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger stepped off a US Air flights from Charlotte connecting from a long flight from Israel to New York. A Pensacola Police Department security detail picked him up as he alighted from the aircraft and will follow him during his stay here. He was greeting by a crowd composed of Mayor Ashton Hayward, City Council President Dr. Peter Wu, Escambia County Commissioner Steven Berry and more than 25 enthusiastic Students from the High Point School, Rabbi Jordan Gerson of B’nai Israel Synagogue and Pastor Brian Kinsey, the co-sponsors of Ambassador Ettinger’s events in Pensacola on Presidents Day Weekend. It was the start of a three day tour and speaking engagements for Ambassador Ettinger to this gateway to North West Florida’s Emerald Coast.
Ambassador Ettinger will be speaking Saturday evening at 6:30PM at B’nai Israel Synagogue on the importance of Judea and Samaria to Israel’s security and on Sunday evening at 6:00PM at the First Pentecostal Church in Pensacola on the Founding Fathers support of the renewal of the Jewish Commonwealth, Israel. Yesterday, he had time to visit, Pensacola’s Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, engaged in leading edge technology developments a possible bridge to Israel’s own high tech driven economy.
Ambassador Ettinger was interviewed at the airport by the media, Pensacola News Journal and an ABC affiliate WEAR-TV Channel 3. Following his comments, captured in excerpts from a PNJ article, “Ex-Israeli Ambassador in Pensacola for weekend tour”, he held a teachable moment answering questions from the students of the High Point School.
In his airport comments Ettinger stressed the importance of Israel’s enduring relations with the US and the impact of the Arab Spring, Iran’s nuclear program and President Obama’s forthcoming visit next month to the Jewish nation, America’s only Democratic ally in the troubled Middle East. The PNJ article noted this in its interview with Ambassador Ettinger:
Mayor Ashton Hayward welcomed Ettinger at the airport.
“For 250 years, Jewish families have lived, worshiped and built businesses in Pensacola. In fact, the first known Jewish settlers in Florida settled right here in Pensacola in 1763,” Hayward said.
“We are a city of many cultures. We honor and celebrate our Jewish heritage. Pensacola is a friend to the Jewish people as well as to the state of Israel.”
In an interview, Ettinger addressed several issues:
“When it comes to third down and 10 yards to go, the U.S. and Israel would find it very good to be together on the field,” said Yoram Ettinger, who is chief executive officer for Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative and served as ambassador to Congress from 1989 to 1992.
• President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel:
“Hopefully, he is going to focus on very, very critical mutual threats for the U.S. and Israel. First and foremost, the nuclearization of Iran, which could devastate the U.S. economy through the meltdown of pro-American regimes in the Persian Gulf.”
Other important issues for the visit, Ettinger said, include the mutual threat of Islamic terrorism and more economic cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.
• Obama’s “friendship” with Israel:
“President Obama has had a number of errors during his first term. Hopefully, he will learn from mistakes rather than repeat them.”
Among those errors, he said, are depending too much on the U.N. and “multinationalism” in foreign relations and applying moral equivalency to the Arab side of Middle East disputes and Israel• Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel’s fitness to be secretary of defense:
“It seems to me that a person who, for many years, has espoused coexistence with a nuclear Iran may not fit with the job of person in charge of U.S. defense.”
Ettinger said Hagel’s previous support of the Assad family in Syria and his insistence that the Palestinian/Israel issue is at the root of Middle Eastern problems are also questionable.
• The ongoing civil war in Syria:
“What we see today in Syria, as well as in the rest of the Middle East ... is no Arab Spring, but a very seismic stormy Arab winter, is the real Middle East. The world took Mubarak of Egypt to be the Rock of Gibraltar. The world took Gaddafi of Libya and Assad of Syria to be rocks of Gibraltar, and we see them tumbling down one by one, and it ain’t the end of this process.”
Watch this PNJ video of Ambassador Ettinger remarks at the Pensacola International Airport welcome.
Ambassador Ettinger was interviewed by Jerry Gordon and Mike Bates published in the current February edition of the New English Review, “Israel on the Brink of Change". Gordon served as MC for Ambassador Ettinger’s welcome ably assisted by Kenneth Lamb of the Task Force that organized Ambassador Ettinger’s appearances in Pensacola on Presidents Day Weekend.