Dermer: PM Has 'Sacred Duty' to Oppose Iran Nuclear Deal That 'Threatens Israel's Existence'

Israeli ambassador in eye of storm says Netanyahu's Congress speech not meant to disrespect Obama or interfere in U.S. politics.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.
Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.Credit: AFP
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Disavowing any disrespect towards President Obama or any intent to intervene in American politics, Israel’s U.S. ambassador Ron Dermer says that Prime Minister Netanyahu has a “sacred duty” to speak up in Congress against the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran which, in Dermer’s words, “could endanger the very existence of the State of Israel.”

In an address to an Israel Bonds gala dinner in Boca Raton, Florida, Dermer said “there may be some people who believe that the Prime Minister of Israel should have declined an invitation to speak before the most powerful parliament in the world on an issue that concerns the future and survival of Israel. But we have learned from our history that the world becomes a more dangerous place for the Jewish people when the Jewish people are silent.”

The transcript of Dermer’s comments, his first since the eruption of the Congressional speech brouhaha, was distributed on Sunday night by the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The ambassador’s comments did not relate to criticism of Dermer’s own role in the process that led to House Speaker John Boehner’s controversial invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress. Among other things, Dermer reportedly met with Secretary of State John Kerry for two hours last Tuesday but failed to mention Boehner’s invitation.

“The Prime Minister’s visit here is not intended to show any disrespect for President Obama,” Dermer said. “Israel deeply appreciates the strong support we have received from President Obama in many areas – the enhanced security cooperation, heightened intelligence sharing, generous military assistance and iron dome funding, and opposition to anti-Israel initiatives at the United Nations.”

“The Prime Minister’s visit is also not intended to wade into your political debate. Israel deeply appreciates the strong bipartisan support we enjoy in the American Congress -- where Democrats and Republicans come together to support Israel - just as Israel appreciates the wide and deep support that it enjoys among the American people.”

Instead, Dermer said “the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington is intended for one purpose -- and one purpose only. To speak up while there is still time to speak up. To speak up when there is still time to make a difference.

“And if was important for the Prime Minister to speak out in Paris about anti-Semitism and the threat from militant Islam, it is even more important for him to speak out in Washington DC about the dangers of a nuclear Iran.”

He added: “The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state. That is an agreement that could endanger the very existence of the State of Israel.”

Dermer described Iran as “the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world” and warned that it would be much more dangerous when it has nuclear weapons at its disposal. He repeated claims often made by Netanyahu by which Iran’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program is aimed at the United States, not Israel. “Those ICBMs are designed to reach Europe and the United States – to reach New York, Washington and Miami,” Dermer said.

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