Wanted: A New Ambassador in Washington

Obama's advisers are ignoring Ambassador Ron Dermer, a persona non grata at the White House. Opening a new leaf in Netanyahu and Obama's relations requires letting Dermer go.

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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
Haaretz Editorial

Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, is extremely close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite the age difference between them, they share an American background, a tendency to interact in English and a fondness for writing speeches for a friendly audience (AIPAC, Congress), in a way that twists idioms and local sayings into catchy punch lines.

This closeness, forged also by a similar worldview, has turned Dermer into a strategic advisor after Netanyahu’s own heart.

Regrettably, Dermer stopped serving as Netanyahu’s strategic advisor some two years ago and went on to serve the prime minister in the American capital as Israel’s ambassador. He did so despite the warnings of the reception awaiting him. After all, neither he nor Netanyahu had concealed their hope that the Republican candidate Mitt Romney would oust the Democrat Barack Obama from the presidency in 2012. Also, Dermer was a Republican Party activist in his youth.

The warnings proved true. Dermer became a persona non grata in the Obama administration. If the White House has a black list, Dermer is probably at the top of it.

The White House is home to the president’s family and the work place of the president, his staff and the National Security Council. Authorized documentation of visitors to the White House shows that Dermer visited the building only once, for a work meeting, since December 2013 (as Barak Ravid reported on Wednesday).

Obama’s associates, headed by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and chief of staff Denis McDonough, are ignoring Dermer. A meeting between him and Obama himself is out of the question. If Dermer actually wanted to enter the White House, he would have to scale the fence and run faster than the secret service security guards.

Nobody would have dreamed of treating prestigious Israeli ambassadors or those who were especially close to the administration the way Dermer is treated. The White House — whether the president is a Democrat or Republican — has never been closed to envoys like Abba Eban, Yitzhak Rabin, Simha Dinitz and Itamar Rabinovich, or Dr. Meir Rosenne, who passed away this week.

Opening a new leaf in Netanyahu and Obama’s relations requires the appointment of a new ambassador. Netanyahu must admit his mistake and move Dermer out of Washington.

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