Quick Facts: Gilad Erdan, Israeli Ambassador to the US & UN

January 19, 2021
Quick Facts: Gilad Erdan, Israeli Ambassador to the US & UN

Erdan (left) and Prime Minister Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting. (Photo: Reuter/Gali Tibbon/Pool)

  • Erdan was born in Ashkelon in southern Israel in 1970. His father immigrated to the country from Romania and his mother from Hungary.
 
  • Erdan lives in Ganei Tikva, which was built on land belonging to the Palestinian village of al-Abbasiyya, which was ethnically cleansed and destroyed during Israel’s establishment as a Jewish state in 1948.


Political Career
 

  • A lawyer, Erdan entered politics in the early 1990s opposing the Oslo Accords, a series of interim diplomatic agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that were supposed to lead to Palestinian statehood by 1999. Soon after, he began working for Ariel Sharon, the notorious right-wing ex-general and then-member of the Knesset (parliament) for the Likud party, as a political advisor. Erdan became an advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu after he became prime minister in 1996, and was elected chairman of Young Likud in 1998.
 
 
  • Since Netanyahu was elected prime minister for the second time in 2009, Erdan has held a number of cabinet positions, including Minister of Interior (2014–2015), Minister of Public Security (2015–2020), Minister of Information (2015-2020), and Minister of Strategic Affairs (2015-2020). In May 2020, Netanyahu appointed Erdan ambassador to the United States and the United Nations. He assumed his post as ambassador to the UN in August 2020 and will be sworn in as ambassador to the US on January 21, 2021.

 

Attacks on the Obama Administration & Democrats
 

  • Erdan was a critic of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to get Israel to freeze the expansion of settlements built illegally on occupied Palestinian land and restart negotiations with the Palestinians. In April 2009, shortly after President Obama took office, then-Minister of Environmental Protection Erdan declared: "Israel does not take orders from Obama.” In 2016, he called Secretary Kerry’s speech to the UN defending President Obama’s decision to abstain on a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements as a violation of international law “pathetic” and accused Obama administration officials of being “pro-Palestinian” and not understanding the Middle East.
 
  • In August 2019, Erdan was involved in the decision to bar Democratic members of Congress Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from entering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories because of their criticism of Israel’s human rights record and support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign for Palestinian rights. It was the first time Israel denied entry to a member of the US Congress. Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, was planning to visit her grandmother and other relatives in the West Bank after the official delegation was over.

 

Opposition to Palestinian Rights, Support for Annexation of Palestinian Land & Racism
 

  • Erdan opposes Palestinian statehood or self-determination of any kind in Palestine/Israel and supports Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
 
  • Erdan also supports Israel annexing occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank in violation of international law. In 2009, as Minister of Environmental Protection, he urged the government to do so in response to Palestinian efforts to achieve UN recognition for an independent state in the occupied territories. In September 2020, he declared annexation is “not off the table” after the Trump administration brokered a series of deals normalizing relations between Israel and other authoritarian governments in the region, which US officials claimed would “suspend” Israel’s plans to annex much of the West Bank, as Netanyahu had repeatedly threatened to do over the previous year.
 
  • As Minister of Public Security, he was criticized for making racist statements about Palestinian citizens of Israel (who comprise about 20% of Israel’s population), including claiming Arab society is “very, very violent,” and was accused of being soft on hate crimes against Christian and Muslim religious sites carried out by Jewish extremists. 

 

Leading Israel’s Attempts to Suppress the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement for Palestinian Rights 

 

 
  • As part of that effort, Erdan pushed laws that have been passed in state legislatures across the US intended to suppress the voices of Americans who support BDS. These anti-BDS laws have been condemned by the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, and others as a threat to the right to freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment. As of January 2021, federal courts in Texas, Kansas, and Arizona have ruled that anti-BDS in those states are unconstitutional.
     
  • In June 2019, at a conference organized by the right-wing Jerusalem Post in New York, Erdan boasted of his success in convincing legislators to pass anti-BDS bills and urging further attempts at suppression, declaring

“Our efforts are producing results. 27 US states now have counter-BDS legislation… We need to take the fight against BDS to the next level. We must… promote legislation that counters all forms of anti-Semitism including of course the anti-Semitic delegitimization of Israel.” 

 
  • In November 2018, Airbnb announced it would cease listing properties in Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, in line with international law and calls from human rights organizations, as part of a policy designed to stop the company from contributing to “existing human suffering.” The next day, Erdan wrote to the governors of New York, Florida, Missouri, and California, asking them to pressure Airbnb to reverse its decision. According to an Amnesty International statement condemning anti-BDS laws, “After several states took action against Airbnb, it changed course and said it would not remove settlement listings from its platform.” In January 2019, Erdan threatened to ban Amnesty from Israel and the occupied territories after it called on Airbnb and other companies to end their dealings with Israeli settlements, stating: “Amnesty International, that hypocritical organization that speaks in the name of human rights, is acting to promote a boycott of Israelis as part of a campaign of anti-Semitic delegitimization.”
 
  • In 2016, Amnesty International condemned threats made by Israeli officials against Palestinian human rights defenders who advocate BDS, noting that Erdan “described BDS activists and leaders as threats and called for them to ‘pay the price’ for their work following this with a clarification that he does not mean ‘physical harm.’” 

 

Provocations Around the Noble Sanctuary Mosque Complex in Occupied East Jerusalem
 

  • Erdan advocates for Jews to be allowed to pray in the venerated Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, one of the most sensitive holy sites in the world, because it was built on the site where two Jewish temples stood thousands of years ago. Messianic Jewish extremists, including other senior Israeli government officials, want to build a new temple where the Noble Sanctuary now stands, which would likely ignite a major religious conflagration in the region and beyond. 
  • In August 2019, then-Public Security Minister Erdan, who oversaw Israeli police in East Jerusalem, sparked outrage and condemnation from neighboring Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel and is the custodian of the Noble Sanctuary, after he called for Jews to be allowed to pray inside it. Jordan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement warning of "the dangerous repercussions of such a change."