Danny Danon, permanent Israeli representative to the United Nations, looked around Rafael Diaz-Balart Hall and said it was good to be back at Florida International University.
“This time, I have no exams and no papers to submit,’’ joked Danon ’96, who earned his degree in international relations at FIU before returning to Jerusalem, where he earned a master’s in public policy at Hebrew University.
Danon acknowledged his former professor, faculty emeritus Charles MacDonald of the Department of Politics and International Relations, and said his experience at FIU helped prepare him for a career in international politics.
“What I learned at FIU gave me the understanding I needed to promote the ideas and values of the only democracy in the Middle East,’’ said Danon, who was on campus as part of the Ruth K. and Shepard Broad Distinguished Lecture Series of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs.
“I was here more than 20 years ago but unfortunately many of the issues and conflicts in the Middle East have not changed.’’
Danon has served as an ambassador to the U.N. since October 2015. Before that, he was deputy minister of defense and a member of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, among other positions in the Israeli government.
As ambassador, Danon said he sees his job as engaging world leaders in dialogue about the future of Israel and “showing the world the true face of Israel.’’
“We are a strong democracy and we have a strong economy,’’ he said. “When I was a child, we did not have enough water. Today, we have the technology to sell water. We are building and launching satellites and we are very proud of that. But instead of investing more in technology and innovation, we have to deal with security issues and prepare for the next attack.’’
Danon said he blamed the “culture of hatred” against Israel for the failure of peace efforts in the Middle East. He said he remains “optimistic” about establishing relations with other countries in the region and called on the U.N. to take action against the violence.
“The U.N. must condemn all acts of terrorism, no matter where they are,’’ he said. “The people of Israel are strong and we will overcome this violence. But you cannot move forward without a dialogue. When you have a culture of dialogue, you can negotiate.”
Danon urged students in the audience to “stand up” and “be active” about issues that matter to them.
“When I was here, we stood up,’’ he said. “Small movements can make a lot of noise.’’
In introducing Danon, Dean John Stack provided some context for the discussion.
“The people of Israel are living in very complex and difficult times right now,’’ he said. “The Arab Spring and ISIS have destabilized the region. The Iran nuclear deal has also contributed to the uncertainties. So we ask, how does Israel maneuver in these challenging times and maintain a strong and viable society? How can Israel continue to contribute to the global community as we all work toward peace?”
Following his lecture, Danon was hosted, along with members of the Israeli Consulate, at the Reagan House by President Mark B. Rosenberg.
“This is the ambassador’s first trip to Miami since being named representative to the United Nations,’’ Rosenberg said. “We are so privileged to have him back here at FIU.’’