Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon (L) and Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to make decisions in the coming weeks on whether to twist the arm of Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and convince him to stay a sixth year in Washington, and what to do regarding Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon in New York.
Dermer is in the middle of his fifth year in the US – only Simcha Dinitz, Abba Eban and Avraham Harman have served longer – and has made clear that he is interested in returning to Israel in the summer.
“He wants to come back,” said one official who has talked to Dermer about the issue. “He has said that he made aliya in order to raise his kids in Israel, and that after five years in Washington, it is time to come home.”
Dermer, considered one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants, took up his job in October 2013. During the Obama administration, which was opposed to many of Netanyahu’s policies, he was often singled out for criticism by senior administration officials and US Jews opposed to the policies Netanyahu was pursuing – especially the battle with Barack Obama over the Iran deal. Today, by contrast, he is believed to have very strong ties with the Trump administration.
According to one diplomatic source, whether Netanyahu accedes to Dermer’s request to return will be dependent on whether President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner retains his role as Trump’s point-man on the Middle East, and whether the US rolls out its long-awaited peace plan.
If Kushner stays in the White House and the plan is presented, Netanyahu is expected to ask Dermer to stay on, as he has a good relationship with Kushner and the Trump Mideast team, and Netanyahu will not want to send a new, less experienced hand to Washington at such a sensitive time.
As far as Danon is concerned, his three-year term ends in August, and Netanyahu will have to decide whether to keep him – once a political rival inside the Likud – in New York. At this time it is not clear what Danon himself wants, and much is dependent on the political situation in Israel.
If the country goes to elections, Damon would likely want to return to Israel if he could secure a guarantee from Netanyahu of a senior cabinet post if he forms the next government.
Danon left his job as science, technology and space minister in 2015 to take up the UN position, apparently believing that this would give him the gravitas needed to someday vie for the Likud leadership. Although Netanyahu and Danon have worked harmoniously over the last three years – Netanyahu dismissed him as deputy defense minister in 2014 because of Danon’s criticism of the prime minister’s handling of Operation Protective Edge – it is difficult to imagine that Netanyahu would give him a senior ministerial post.
If the investigations surrounding Netanyahu create a situation where there is a leadership race inside the Likud to replace him – something not seen on the immediate horizon – then it would be likely that Danon would want to return to Israel to contend for the party’s leadership. Danon went to the UN on a three-year contract, with an option to extend for a fourth year.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on the situation in the Middle East, December 18, 2017 before UN vote on Jerusalem (YouTube/ United Nations)
His three years end at around the time of the High Holy Days. He is expected to discuss the matter with Netanyahu when he returns here for Passover next week.