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November 6, 2017 5:21 pm

Israel Will Be America’s ‘Most Important Ally’ in the 21st Century, DC Envoy Predicts

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Israeli Ambassador to US Ron Dermer speaks at the Israeli-American Council National Conference in Washington, DC, Nov. 6, 2017. Photo: Perry Bindelglass.

The US-Israeli alliance will only grow stronger in the coming years, the Jewish state’s envoy to Washington predicted on Monday.

“I believe Israel is going to be the most important ally of the United States in the 21st century,” Ambassador Ron Dermer said at the fourth annual Israeli-American Council National Conference.

“The reason why is because…for the foreseeable future…most of the major security challenges facing the United States are going to emanate from the Middle East,” Dermer continued. “And you do not have another reliable partner, that is democratic, in that region.”

“If you think about who is the best partner for the United States around the world, in keeping its own citizens safe and its allies safe on the security side, and also making its citizens more prosperous, with all the technology that’s happening [in Israel], I think that Israel is the most important ally of the United States,” he added.

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Turning to the July 2015 nuclear agreement reached by Iran and six world powers, Dermer said, “What the deal essentially did, it put all of us in a car, on cruise control, heading over a cliff.”

The Israeli diplomat praised US President Donald Trump’s recent change of tack toward the Tehran regime, as expressed in an Oct. 13 address in which Trump announced the decertification of the JCPOA.

“He has shifted American policy, rather dramatically, from containment to prevention, on the nuclear side…[and] essentially from accommodation to rolling back Iran on the regional side,” Dermer said. “And there a lot of tools they have in their arsenal to affect that.”

“I do think it’s possible for the Untied States to work with Europe, work with Congress, to try to put fixes in and to correct the deficiencies in the deal,” Dermer noted, highlighting the issues of ballistic missile development, inspections and the nuclear agreement’s sunset clause. “I do think it’s possible to get a fix. I wouldn’t call it necessarily a better deal, I think it’s possible to turn a bad deal into a good policy vis-à-vis Iran. But I also think if you can’t, then President Trump should walk away from this deal.”

Dermer also reiterated Israel’s opposition to growing Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

“We don’t want to see Iran have a permanent presence in Syria, to establish, essentially, a third terror front against Israel,” he said. “They have Hezbollah, they cooperate with the terror organizations in Gaza. And now to establish another permanent base — a land base, a sea base, air bases in Syria — we don’t want to see that happen.”

Finally, referring to Israel’s diplomatic ties with its Arab neighbors, Dermer revealed he felt “more optimistic than I have ever been at the prospects for reconciliation with the broader region.”

“We’ll have to see if that’s also going to be true with the Palestinians,” he added as a caveat.

Dermer went on to say:

“I’m more optimistic now because I see a change in the region. The Arab governments are in a different place than they were five years ago, certainly ten years or 15 years ago, because they see our interests as being aligned with theirs… Many things are happening underneath the surface, many remarkable things.”

“How you translate that into an effective peace process is very difficult, because those same governments have essentially poisoned their citizens for 70 years — against Israel, against Jews, against Christians, sometimes against America. So it’s very hard for them to simply pivot. While they’re not democracies, public opinion is relevant.”

The ambassador emphasized the negative Palestinian reactions to last week’s celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the issuance of the Balfour Declaration.

“The Palestinians, unfortunately, have not crossed this historic Rubicon, to recognize the one and only Jewish state,” he said. “So they’re not ready yet to accept the Jewish state, but if the Arab governments are, then I think that will put enormous pressure on the Palestinians to decide whether or not they want to waste another century, or they want to work with Israel on building a better future. I hope they’ll make the latter choice.”

Dermer was speaking at the closing plenary of the four-day IAC gathering at the Walter E. Convention Center in the nation’s capital. Other conference participants on Monday included a bipartisan group of US House of Representatives members — Republicans Ed Royce of California, Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and Democrats Brad Sherman of California, Ted Deutch of Florida and Brad Schneider of Illinois.

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