At Height of U.S. Elections Frenzy, Israeli Ambassador to Address pro-Republican Conference

Except for Ron Dermer, all other speakers at 'The Road to Majority’ conference will be Republican congressmen; 'conference isn’t political,' embassy source insists.

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

At the height of the U.S. presidential and congressional election campaigns, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer will attend a conference dealing with strategies for retaining the Republican Party’s majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The conference, which was organized by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and labeled "The Road to Majority," will take place in Washington on Thursday. Dermer will be the only foreign ambassador to speak at the conference and the only speaker who is not a Republican congressman. Dermer will 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. 

A source at the Israeli embassy in Washington responded by saying that Dermer had been invited to speak at the annual conference of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. This source noted that this was a conservative organization which is not affiliated with any party. Its leader, Ralph Reed, and its members across the U.S. are among Israel’s staunchest supporters.

“The ambassador is invited throughout the year to speak at many events held by organizations and communities from the entire political spectrum, conservative and progressive. In this period of election campaigns, the only party events in which there will be an official Israeli representation will be the two parties’ conventions. An official Israeli delegation will attend those, as it does in every presidential election,” the embassy source said.

Despite these comments, the above-mentioned conservative Christian organization is totally identified with the Republican Party and the topic of the conference is strategies for winning the elections.

Dermer participated in previous political conferences held by the Republicans, such as that held by the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas in March 2014. This is an organization that is funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who also owns the newspaper “Yisrael Hayom” in Israel. That conference was held at the Venetian Hotel, which he owns.

But Dermer’s scheduled appearance at the coming conference was even more unusual in light of the fact that it’s being held in the midst of the charged presidential and congressional elections campaigns and deals 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.

Ever since his appointment in 2013, Dermer has been perceived as closely affiliated with the Republican side of American politics. His participation may be viewed as a clear political statement and as blunt and unprecedented interference by an Israeli ambassador in U.S. politics.

This isn’t the first time Dermer has led or participated in steps seen as Israeli support for the Republican side. During the presidential election campaign in 2012 Dermer was one of the architects of Republican contender Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. A story in Tablet magazine, published a few months before the 2012 elections, showed that Dermer conceived and planned Romney’s visit, together with Dan Senor, Romney’s close adviser.

“Romney’s visit to Israel was the brainchild of two people – Ron Dermer, Netanyahu’s U.S.-born chief strategist, and Dan Senor, Romney’s close adviser,” said the Tablet story. “The visit was planned in quiet, lest its discovery prompt a last-minute visit by [President Barack] Obama as well. When Senor was in Jerusalem for his niece’s bat-mitzvah he met Dermer for breakfast at the King David Hotel. A few days later, with Romney’s campaign’s blessing, Dermer gave the scoop to the New York Times.”

Dermer was also the one who, together with former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, concocted Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in March 2015, two weeks before the general elections in Israel. The controversial speech was perceived by the White House and other senior Democrat officials as blunt interference by Netanyahu and Dermer in American politics in an attempt to foil the nuclear accords with Iran.

In February 2015, a month before Netanyahu’s speech, Boehner gave an interview to Fox News, identified with the more conservative stream in the Republican Party. Boehner admitted that he’d asked Dermer not to update the Obama administration about their contacts regarding Netanyahu’s speech so that the White House would not try to thwart the plan. Dermer admitted to not updating the White House but claimed that he’d thought that Boehner would do so.

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