Terrorists are involved in both sides of the Syrian civil war, where the struggling Assad regime has the largest chemical and biological weapons arsenal in the world, county Republicans were told this week.
David Siegel, the highest-ranking Israeli diplomat in the southwestern United States, called this a “moment of extreme danger” to the 65-year-old democracy and longtime U.S. ally.
He spoke Monday night to the Republican Party Central Committee, meeting at the Rancho Bernardo Inn.
“Global jihadists and Al Qaeda are coming to fight in Syria on both sides of the divide,” said Siegel, the Los Angeles-based consul general of Israel. “The longer this continues, the more deeply embedded in Syria these powerful and dangerous organizations are. … They’ll take [these weapons systems] and disappear throughout the Middle East.”
Amid applause from an audience of 200, Siegel vowed: “We won’t let terrorists, who are the most dangerous in the world—Al Qaeda, Hizbullah and others—be equipped with the most dangerous weapons in the world.”
He said Israel’s strategy against Iran and its nuclear weapons program is twofold—“crippling economic sanctions” and a “credible military threat on the table.”
Siegel called for Congress and California—“the seventh-largest economy on earth”—to pass even tougher sanctions.
“Time is urgent,” he said in a 13-minute talk. “The good news is we will overcome because we are the forces of good and we are also dedicated, patriotic,” with both nations working to “stop the threats to our people, to our families, to our countries.”
Educated at the University of Vermont (a bachelor’s in political science), Siegel is a former commander in the Israel Defense Forces who took part in the 1998 Wye River Peace Summit, the 1999 Israel-Syria negotiations, the Camp David Middle East Peace Summit in the fall of 2000 and the 2007 Annapolis Conferenc, according to his online biography.
The bulk of his talk was about the four pillars of the U.S.-Israeli alliance—including spiritual (the founding fathers were Zionists, he said) and shared values—Israel has “never known a day or a minute of nondemocracy.”
Siegel also called the Jewish state “the No. 1 partner to the United States when it comes to intelligence sharing”—a relationship that also includes training of special forces and even development of high-tech bandages.
But the most significant tie, he said, is commercial.
“Israel today is a high-tech giant,” he said. “Even though we’re [geographically] small, we punch way above our weight. “After Silicon Valley, Israel is probably the No. 2 or No. 3 most significant high-tech ecosystem in the world today.”
He noted Israel’s work in technologies of the future—brain science, nanotechnology, genetics, robotics and artificial intelligence.
He said Israel boasts 250 international research and development centers and 5,000 startups—“more than all of Europe combined.” Intel operates five plants in Israel, he said, and Apple is opening its third R&D center in Israel—the only one outside of California.
But amid that flowering of industy, Israel lives amid threats, surrounded by what he called “failing societies.”
“We have challenges that we have not seen since [the nation’s founding in] 1948—and certainly not since 1967 [and the Six-Day War],” he said. “So it’s a moment of extreme danger.”
“This is where [the United States and Israel] need to work together very closely.”