Report: Arab diplomats rebuff Israeli invite to Netanyahu Congress speech

According to The Atlantic, Ron Dermer lobbied fellow ambassadors from Kuwait, UAE to attend premier's speech next week.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
February 25, 2015 13:56
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses US Congress in 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Israel’s ambassador to the United States unsuccessfully lobbied the ambassadors of two Gulf Arab states to attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech before a joint session of Congress scheduled for next week, The Atlantic reported on Wednesday.

According to Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Ron Dermer, Netanyahu’s right-hand man who took over as Jerusalem’s envoy to Washington in the fall of 2013, sent email messages to his diplomatic counterparts from United Arab Emirates and Kuwait urging them to appear in the audience while the premier gives his anticipated address regarding an issue of supreme importance to all three nations – Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

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Goldberg reported that Dermer, the man widely believed to have orchestrated the invite to Netanyahu with House Speaker John Boehner, stressed the common threat posed by Iran to Israel and the Sunni states in the region.

The ambassador’s sales pitch to the diplomats reportedly was based on the premise that an Arab presence at Netanyahu’s speech would have a greater impact on US lawmakers since it would demonstrate rare Israeli-Arab unity on a sensitive issue.

The Atlantic is also reporting that senior Israeli officials have been privately warning Netanyahu that his decision to brazenly defy the Obama administration in such a public manner is fraught with risk.

One of those officials is Yossi Cohen, Netanyahu’s national security advisor. During his recent visit to Washington, Cohen reportedly expressed deep misgivings about the speech, particularly its timing. Israel’s general elections are scheduled for March 17.

According to Goldberg’s dispatch, the premier is aware that his address before Congress means that he is effectively “burning his remaining bridges to the White House.”

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Israel and the moderate Sunni Arab governments in the region share an enmity toward Iran. While Israel’s leadership has been more open and public about what it perceives to be the Obama administration’s far-reaching concessions to Iran in the P5+1 talks, Arab governments have communicated their concerns in private.

Channel 2 on Tuesday cited European sources as saying that the Saudis have expressed their willingness to cooperate with Israel on Iran, including use of Saudi air space by the IDF for a possible air strike.

Cooperation with Saudi Arabia would not come free, however. According to the report, the Saudi officials said they would need to see progress between Israelis and Palestinians before having enough legitimacy to allow Israel to use their air space.

Talks with Iran over its nuclear program have instilled fear within some major Sunni states, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates that a nuclear arms race will break out in the region, and have brought about speculation regarding the possible extension of a US nuclear umbrella to its non-nuclear-armed Middle East allies.

According to a Wall Street Journal report last week, concerned Arab states said that a nuclear deal allowing Iran to keep its nuclear-producing technologies would likely drive nations in the region to develop nuclear capabilities in order to match those of Iran's.

An Arab official, according to the WSJ, said that the collapse of negotiations with Iran is preferable to a bad nuclear deal - a comment similar to those previously iterated by Netanyahu.

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