Israeli Envoy: Huckabee's 'Obama Marching Israelis to Ovens' Remark 'Inappropriate'

Dermer tells USA Today that while Israel and the U.S. disagree about the Iran deal, Jerusalem has no doubt that the Obama administration is sincere in its belief that it will make America and Israel safer.

Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.
Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer. AFP

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer criticized Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for saying that President Barack Obama was using the nuclear deal with Iran to march Israelis "to the door of the oven," a reference to the Nazi gas chambers that killed millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Dermer, who is considered one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest confidants and has over the last few weeks set out on a campaign on his behalf to convince members of congress to oppose the nuclear deal, told USA Today in an interview that Huckabee's remarks were "inappropriate."

The Israeli ambassador said that while the government in Jerusalem and the White House are deeply at odds over the nuclear deal, Israel has no doubt that the Obama administration is sincere in its belief that the agreement will make both Israel and America safe.

"What I don't doubt is the sincerity of the president or his team when they say they believe this deal not only makes America safe but makes Israel safe. Where we disagree is the judgment of actually what this deal is going to do," Dermer told USA Today.

As such, Dermer said, he would not have used the rhetoric lay out by Huckabee against Obama.

"We don't in any way impugn the motives of the people who are doing this deal," Dermer said. "I think it's important to conduct this debate in a way that's befitting of the alliance between our two countries."

Dermer said that he has met in recent weeks with many legislators from the Democratic Party, who were very attentive to Israel's complaints about the deal. According to Dermer, it is these Democratic legislators who will determine whether the deal will executed. The majority of Congress opposes the deal, Dermer said, but added that he did not know whether the opponents would manage to achieve two-thirds of the votes necessary to override a presidential veto.

The Israeli ambassador said that Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter proposed during his visit to Israel last week holding security talks regarding the day after the nuclear deal goes into effect.

"They want to work with us to discuss what happens the day after," Dermer said. "We're not in that conversation at this point because we want to focus on preventing what we think is a very bad deal for Israel, for the region and for the world."

"We appreciate the support that we have gotten from this administration, from this president, to enhance our security," he added. "And the discussion that we'll have about the day after, we'll have to leave to the day after."

Meanwhile, seven former American diplomats sent a letter to members of Congress on Monday, urging them to support the nuclear deal with Iran. The diplomats included five former ambassadors to Israel over the last few decades - James Cunningham, William Harrop, Daniel Kurtzer, Thomas Pickering and Edward Walker Jr. — as well as R. Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state for political affairs and ambassador to NATO, and Frank Wisner, former undersecretary of state for international security affairs and undersecretary of defense for policy.

In the letter, the diplomats wrote: "We see no fatal flaws that should call for the rejection of this agreement and have not heard any viable alternatives from those who oppose the implementation" of the deal.