The political conference of a pro-Republican organization in Washington went ahead on Thursday without Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, who cancelled his planned participation.
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The Faith & Freedom Coalition meeting was called to discuss strategies for retaining a Republican majority in Congress. Dermer canceled his appearance following a report in Haaretz that he was scheduled to speak at the conference.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said that Dermer realized that his participation would be unwise, after the report in Haaretz and further checks revealed that it was to be a purely Republican event. As a result, he informed the organizers that he would not be able to participate.
The keynote speaker, whose name did not appear on the original invitation, was the presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Dermer’s decision may also have been influenced by the fact that MK Esawi Freige (Meretz) approached the Civil Service Commission following the Haaretz report. Freige wrote the commissioner, Moshe Dayan, last Monday that Dermer’s appearance at the conference would not only paint Israel and its representatives in political colors, but would also deepen the existing rift between the Israeli government and the Obama administration.
Freige asked the commissioner to act to prevent Dermer from appearing at the conference. On Tuesday, Dayan wrote Freige that his complaint had been forwarded to the Foreign Ministry. It is not known whether ministry officials communicated with Dermer on the matter before he decided to cancel his appearance.
Dermer would have been the only foreign speaker at the conference, the title of which was “The Road to Majority,” and the only speaker who was not a Republican senator or member of the House of Representatives.
Dermer was due to speak at the official conference dinner, coming right after Senator Marco Rubio, who was a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, and Senator Chuck Grassley, the head of the Senate’s Justice Committee.
In March 2014, Dermer participated in a conferences held by the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, an organization that is funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who also owns the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom.
But Dermer’s scheduled appearance at the Washington conference was even more unusual in light of the fact that it was held in the midst of the charged presidential and congressional election campaigns and dealt specifically with strategies the party should embrace in order to win.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted in recent months that he’s not intervening in U.S. elections.