Amb. Ron Dermer praises Berkowitz appt for US special envoy post

"... what is important now is... stand up to Iran's aggression and continue ratcheting up the pressure until Iran abandoned its nuclear ambitions once and for all," says Dermer at Israel Embassy.

US Ambassador Ron Dermer  (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Ambassador Ron Dermer
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer addressed European attempts to save the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, saying that “what is important now is to stay the course, stand up to Iran’s aggression, and continue ratcheting up the pressure until Iran [has] abandoned its nuclear ambitions once and for all.”
Speaking at the Israeli Embassy’s annual Rosh Hashanah reception on Tuesday, he praised US President Donald Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and said that “Iran’s regime is now selling 80% less oil than it did little more than a year ago. Those sanctions have denied the Iranian regime – which vows and works to destroy Israel – of tens of billions of dollars they would otherwise have flown into its coffers.
“That is very good news for those who care about Israel’s security,” he added. “It’s also good news for those who care about stability in the Middle East because Iran had been using those funds to fuel its war machinery in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza and elsewhere.”
He did not provide any comment to Trump’s recent remarks in which he expressed his willingness to meet with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and reproved that “European leaders are predictably calling for even more appeasement, rather than respond to Iran’s aggression and violations by joining America’s pressure campaign.”
The ambassador also praised Avi Berkowitz, a recently named member of the White House peace team – together with Brian Hook – as US special envoy Jason Greenblatt’s successors. Both Berkowitz and Greenblatt, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, attended the event.
“If people are surprised Avi was chosen to replace Jason, it’s because they haven’t been paying attention,” Dermer said. “For three years, Avi hasn’t been ‘a’ person behind-the-scenes. He has been ‘the’ person behind-the-scenes. He has been that unnamed official sitting in meetings with Israeli and Arab leaders. [He was] the talented aid responsible for critical tasks that had to be done, and the person charged with making sure that a reporter occasionally got the story right.”
He said that Berkowitz deserved the promotion, and that “countless times he has been a valued voice in the room. The only thing that would surprise me about Avi is if he would not prove as capable in his new role as he has been in his former one. I’d say Israel looks forward to working with you, but we’ve already been working with you.”
Dermer thanked Greenblatt and said that during the past three years, he had witnessed the special envoy’s “tireless efforts to advance peace between Israel and our neighbors.
“I have watched him defend Israel in bold speeches at the UN and in timely posts on his Twitter account. I have seen his sharp mind and generous spirit turn cynics into friends,” Dermer said. “One day, more people will recognize the important role you have played in strengthening the relationship between America and Israel, and in the historic decisions President Trump has made regarding it. But in the meantime, I recognize him, the prime minister recognizes it, and the Israeli Defense Force recognize it.”
Dermer downplayed recent reports on a crisis between US Jewry and the Israeli government, and said that the media tends to focus on “the 5% of Jews who apparently don’t like Israel.
“As many of you know, there hasn’t been much talk lately of American Jews in Israel drifting apart,” he said. “Truth is, people had been talking about that drift for years, even decades. Well, it turns out that according to Gallup polls, 95% of American Jews have a favorable opinion of Israel. That’s right – 95%. I don’t even think Moses, even during his first term, had 95%.
“It does not mean that people don’t have diverse views about how best to secure Israel’s future,” he added, “but those who see every disagreement or difference of opinion as a crisis are missing the larger story.”