WASHINGTON – The Israeli government is enjoying a positive relationship with the White House the likes of which has not been experienced in years, said Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
“For the first time in many years, perhaps even many decades, there is no daylight between our two governments,” Dermer told a massive gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, opening its annual policy conference on Sunday.
His plaudits for the new president were not lost on Democrats in the room who remain protective of former US president Barack Obama and defensive of his handling of the US-Israel relationship.
But in a closed-door lunch with AIPAC donors after his speech, Dermer emphasized that bipartisanship on Israel remains a strategic asset for the state.
“He said that it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican– you should always be happy that there’s no daylight between both sides,” said one source who participated in the lunch.
In brief remarks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s confidante in Washington thanked US President Donald Trump’s new ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, for “finally bringing some moral clarity” to the international body.
He praised the burgeoning administration for supporting a regional peace initiative that would codify Israel’s tacit alliance with Sunni Arab states.
“We have a common desire for a safer, more prosperous and more peaceful future,” Dermer said.
Trump’s top aides are hoping to jump-start talks on Middle East peace, eyeing a regional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would draw on an alignment of interests between Israel and the Gulf states.
To that end, Dermer also suggested cooperation on Syria, where the Trump administration is still formulating its policy approach to the six-year civil war.
Israel and the US both agree that the “worst outcome” possible in Syria would be if Iran established permanent enclaves there, Dermer said.
“Both of our governments recognize that foremost among [our] challenges remains Iran,” Dermer said. “Both recognize that the worst outcome that could emerge from the horrific carnage in Syria would be to effectively cede parts of Syria to Iran and Hezbollah.”
Dermer also made note of Washington’s policy convergence with Israel on the issue of “militant Islam,” which “has engulfed the Middle East,” he said, but has also “enabled a rare moment of opportunity to bring Israel and many in the Arab world closer.”
Shared interests, and not “empty hopes and dangerous illusions,” might be the basis for Israeli-Arab peace, the envoy said.
While offering praise for the Trump administration, Dermer also highlighted the bipartisan foundation of the US-Israel relationship.
“Our remarkable alliance is anchored in shared values, buttressed by shared interests and driven by a shared destiny,” he said. “But this alliance has also been fortified and nurtured for decades by AIPAC and by people just like you.”
Roughly 18,000 followers are attending this year’s AIPAC conference, which will feature speeches from Haley, Netanyahu, US Vice President Mike Pence and senior congressional leadership.
The largest Israel advocacy organization in Washington is pushing a bill that would combat efforts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians, as well as a measure that would severely sanction Iran for its ballistic missile program and its regional warfare tactics.
Both bills already enjoy bipartisan support.
This year’s conference will also highlight Israel’s increasingly close ties with African states. For the first time, a head of state from the continent – Rwandan President Paul Kagame – addressed the confab.
“For Rwanda and many other countries in Africa, engaging productively with Israel has opened new horizons,” Kagame said.
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