Obama Official: Israel's Ambassador to U.S. Putting Netanyahu Above U.S.-Israel Relations

U.S. Congress members appeal to House Speaker to postpone Israeli prime minister's speech in Washington until after Israeli election.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with Ron Dermer in 2011.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with Ron Dermer in 2011.Credit: GPO
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

A senior Obama administration official attacked Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador in Washington, about his involvement in cooking up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's invitation to speak to the U.S. Congress behind the White House's back.

In a conversation with the New York Times, the senior American official said that time and again Dermer put Netanyahu's political interests above relations between Israel and the United States.

Dermer is considered one of Netanyahu's closest associates. He served in recent years as Netanyahu's political and diplomatic adviser and was involved in both the 2009 and 2013 electoral campaigns. After the last election, Netanyahu appointed Dermer as the Israeli ambassador o the United States. Since his arrival in Washington, Dermer has continued to advise Netanyahu on a long list of subjects and returns to Israel frequently for such discussions.

Dermer responded to the New York Times that he does not regret his handling of the affair and stressed that he was operating to advance Israel's interests. Dermer stressed that he did not intend to exclude the White House from Netanyahu's speech, rather that he believed that House Speaker John Boehner will update President Obama and his team.

“My understanding was that it was the speaker’s prerogative to do, and that he would be the one to inform the administration,” said Dermer. “The prime minister feels very strongly that he has to speak on this issue. That’s why he accepted the invitation, not to wade into your political debate or make this a partisan issue, and not to be disrespectful to the president.”

According to the New York Times, a group of U.S. Democratic congressmen sent an official letter to Boehner and asked him to postpone the invitation he sent Netanyahu until after a date is set for reaching a declaration of principles between Iran and the six world powers at the end of March. Doing so would effectively push the speech back until after the Israeli election.

The three members of Congress who initiated the letter, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Maxine Waters of California, distributed it among their Congressional colleagues and asked them to sign it. In the letter, the three blame Boehner for harming American foreign relations and undermining President Obama.

"As members of Congress who support Israel, it appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the president, the three wrote to Boehner," according to the New York Times report. "When the Israeli prime minister visits us outside the specter of partisan politics, we will be delighted and honored to greet him or her on the floor of the House."

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