WASHINGTON – Israel’s new ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said on Wednesday that the current rift between Israel and the US over Iran’s nuclear program does not amount to a crisis in relations.
Dermer, a confidant of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and a former Republican strategist, defended US President Barack Obama in a closed-door session with a bipartisan group of 30 congressmen in the office of the Speaker of the House.
The new ambassador said the US diplomatic corps had kept the Israeli government fully apprised of developments throughout negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the “P5+1” powers – the US, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – over the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment and plutonium facilities.
“[Dermer] certainly reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself,” one attendee said. “But he said that when Israel really needs the US, and the president specifically, he has delivered.”
Responding to a series of questions from one Republican concerned with Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security, “Dermer recalled that Obama phoned Netanyahu eight times in four days during the Gaza crisis, and gave Israel 100 percent of what it needed,” the attendee said.
Some of Washington’s most conservative figures, including Michele Bachmann of the Tea Party Caucus, were in attendance at the meeting.
According to the attendee, Dermer reiterated that differences remain between the US and Israel over how best to proceed with Iran, but said that on the day after an interim agreement is reached, “the US-Israel relationship will only be more important than it has been before.”
Israel’s government has warned that a “bad deal” in Geneva would unravel a regime of financial sanctions that took years to build. Netanyahu has advocated for increasing, rather than decreasing sanctions – a position that has been adopted by many members of Congress.
But a public row has ensued after the Obama administration lobbied against a new sanctions bill in Congress, which the president fears would destabilize negotiations.
Iran’s government has warned that progress on the bill would force them to exit the talks.
Dermer began as Israel’s ambassador to Washington this fall, succeeding Michael Oren, who served since 2009.