Dermer trying to mend fences with White House, but is it already too late?

According to officials in the US and Israel, Ron Dermer's standing in the White House is so tarnished that he is practically "persona non grata."

March 28, 2015 20:10
2 minute read.
Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (R) greets House Rep. (D) Jerrold Nadler

Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (R) greets House Rep. (D) Jerrold Nadler. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel's ambassador to the United States has been the subject of controversy as of late. According to at least one former ambassador, his status in the White House is practically insoluble.

Dermer, an American-born former Republican operative, was instrumental in arranging the now-infamous speech given by Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress earlier this month denouncing a nuclear deal with Iran, which in the process violated established protocol by failing to notify the White House. This prompted outrage from the Obama administration.

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Richard LeBaron, the former American ambassador to Kuwait and a former deputy chief of mission at the American embassy in Tel Aviv, said the speech episode was a mistake that had rendered Mr. Dermer “damaged goods” and “practically persona non grata among senior policy makers” in the United States government, according to The New York Times.

"It was poor judgment, and it was poor judgment affecting the relationship with the most important country that has a partnership with Israel,” said Mr. LeBaron, adding that as a former ambassador, he would expect to have been sent home for a similar infraction. “If he’s not gone within a month, it’s another indicator that Netanyahu is only out for political advantage and is not serious about repairing relations.”

As the rift between the Obama administration and the prime minister continues to widen, Dermer has not been deterred in his role as Israel's chief diplomat to Washington. Dermer has been working to ensure that even as the United States and Israel feud, members of Congress continue to back generous military and intelligence support for Israel, The New York Times adds.

All parties recognize "that whatever the outcome of the negotiations, that the friendship and support of America for Israel would be strong and continuous,” said Representative Gwen Graham, Democrat of Florida, a co-sponsor of legislation on developing an anti-tunneling defense system for Israel.

One challenge facing Dermer, however, is the real prospect of an accord being struck between Iran and the West. He may soon be tasked with the role of having to convince members of Congress to challenge the president's promise of a veto and squash the agreement with additional sanctions or legislation that would put a stop any agreement moving forward.

Criticism of Dermer's performance, however, is not limited only to the shores of the United States. In Israel, some members of parliament are also calling for the removal of Dermer from his position. Erel Margalit, a member of parliament from the center-left Zionist Union, sent a letter to Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday urging him to replace Mr. Dermer, who he said was considered “persona non grata” by the Obama administration, The New York Times notes.

“As such,” he told Army Radio, “he risks the state of Israel and the ongoing dialogue with the US.”

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