Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement this week that his trusted aide Ron Dermer will replace Michael Oren as the Jewish State’s ambassador to Washington is the latest statement of Israeli independence from American designs in the region.
In 2008 when President Barack Obama was first elected, following a campaign in which he was sharply criticized by some members of the Jewish community for his believed hostility to Israeli positions, two major Jewish organizations made olive branch appointments.
AIPAC, the goliath pro-Israel lobby appointed Chicago entrepreneur Lee “Rosy” Rosenberg as president. According to the Washington Post Rosenberg was one of Obama’s “staunchest Jewish allies during his 2008 presidential campaign.”
“He advised the president on foreign policy in the Middle East and Israel and delivered speeches to Jewish groups around the country,” the Post added.
Similarly, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations appointed Chicago lawyer Alan Solow, another veteran Obama supporter and campaign bundler, as its Chairman.
But the Israeli public has shown no such deference to the U.S. administration. When Prime Minister Netanyahu was re-elected shortly after Obama’s own re-election victory (as opposed to a leader whose policies were more overtly aligned with the White House) it was a strong statement of independence.
Netanyahu did not disappoint.
He followed Obama’s appointment of Chuck Hagel as U.S. Secretary of Defense with the selection of Moshe Yaalon as Israel’s Defense Minister – a man whose worldview appears to be almost diametrically opposed to Hagel’s. As Yaalon’s deputy he appointed Danny Danon, who has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration since its very early days.
Although as Israeli Daily Ma’ariv reported, Dermer has visited with and his appointment has been “approved” by U.S. administration officials, including John Kerry, this was done as a matter of courtesy. It is unlikely that given the choice, Dermer would have been their first pick.
According to a JTA report, Dermer “is rumored to be the one responsible for news stories about Obama’s supposed snub of Netanyahu during his 2010 White House visit. And Obama administration officials believe he was behind Netanyahu’s perceived tilt toward Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election.”
Mr. Dermer, “is credited with helping engineer a campaign visit by Mr. Romney to Israel which featured a warm embrace with Mr. Netanyahu while the Republican candidate attacked the Obama administration, say analysts. He is also considered a liaison to influential Republican campaign financiers like Sheldon Adelson,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
“Here’s a guy that made sure the prime minister was close to Romney,” the Journal cited an Israeli political analyst familiar with officials at the prime minister’s office as saying. “If Romney was elected [Mr. Dermer] would be the one you send right away. He’s got the right demeanor as a Republican, he has neo-conservative credentials. He has the full backing and confidence of the prime minister, which is important. But for Obama, it’s not the right fit. There’s too much baggage.”
“To me, it’s not an ideal choice as he’s seen as extremely political and as someone who has repeatedly gone to the press with negative stories,” a former Obama administration official told JTA. “You want someone trusted and discreet to be your ambassador.”
As many have stressed, Dermer is exceedingly close to Netanyahu. In many ways, the placement is as if Netanyahu wished a clone of himself to be present on Capitol Hill. And while Netanyahu is an experienced statesman who is well versed in the ways of diplomacy, he is known more in his dealings with Washington for his verbal commitment to Israel’s right to independence of action, especially on security related matters, than for being a conciliatory “yes” man.
If the Israelis were expecting a time down the road or a future time in which the Jewish State was forced to take action in Iran or elsewhere against the will of the United States, Dermer would be the man best suited to stand his ground in representing Israel to the White House.
Indeed, as the flames of the Middle East intensify, with Netanyahu’s selection of Dermer comes a concrete demonstration of what the Prime Minister has often stressed; that Israel reserves the right to defend itself by itself at all times.