WASHINGTON – With the US primary season underway, Demetries Grimes, a former combat navy commander who served as naval attaché to Israel from 2007 to 2009, announced a congressional bid for Florida’s newly drawn 15th district.
Grimes is running in a crowded Republican field that includes five candidates. He was endorsed, among others, by former US ambassador David Friedman, who said in a video clip that Grimes “believes in a strong US-Israel relationship,” and “we need him in Washington.
Grimes told The Jerusalem Post that if elected, one of his goals would be to strengthen the US-Israel alliance.
“The US-Israel relationship has always been a strong relationship that goes beyond just the relationship between the governments, but the bonds between our people,” he said. “We share common values and common interests; our interests are completely aligned with respect to peace and stability.”
Asked if the relationship between the countries can remain bipartisan, he said it was “a great tragedy that it has come to that [partisan] situation.”
“The US-Israel relationship has always been a strong relationship that goes beyond just the relationship between the governments, but the bonds between our people.”Demetries Grimes
“I saw the big difference when the Obama administration came in, [which] drove Israel and some of our other allies to sort of diversify themselves with respect to the partnerships,” he said. “We’re seeing on the Democratic side that sort of a litmus test, whether you’re against Israel or for Israel, that makes it very difficult for a person that’s running in a Democratic primary to win. And I think it’s going to take some serious education to get back to that point” – that the relationship will return to being bipartisan.
“In foreign policy, the countries need to be aligned because in the past they had that, but [the current situation] is a sign of the times,” the congressional hopeful said. “This is one of the reasons I’m in this fight.”
Grimes is a former navy commander and aviator. “I completed seven deployments, five of them on aircraft carriers, two tours to Afghanistan,” he said. “I was a military prosecutor and judge in the trials of al-Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan.
“I did seven special cases that I prosecuted. One of them was Ameen Mohammad Albakri... I worked with other US government agencies to declassify his case files so the world would see what he had done,” Grimes said. “I tied him directly to being a financier and a logistician for the attacks on the USS Cole and the US embassies in Africa.”
He also served as a diplomat in Greece before arriving in Israel from 2007 to 2009.
“As a military attaché, you represent the military to the country, just like the ambassador represents the president,” he said. “The work was focused on promoting interoperability and strengthening our partnership. I had a great opportunity to bring US counterparts like Navy SEALs to work with IDF units, to deepen cooperation in the different exercises that we were participating in.”
He added that he had a chance to brief then-vice president Dick Cheney and other senior officials in their visits to Israel.
Later, he served NATO as a Russia-Ukraine expert and adviser to its maritime area and special operations commander. He told the Post that the lesson from the Russia-Ukraine war is the importance of alliances and deterrence.
“Israel is very good about raising the awareness of some of the graver threats that we face. It is not just the threat that Israel faces, but it’s a threat that the West faces,” he said, “and Iran’s nuclear ambitions is top of the list.
“What Ukraine has made countries realize is they have to maintain a strong deterrent capability for whatever threat that they’re facing, and they have to accept the fact that that is a number one priority.
“Israel has been very good at doing that,” he continued. “The United States can be better at doing that. NATO can be much better at doing that. We can never allow Iran to achieve its nuclear ambitions – and the US policy right now and what I saw when I was in Israel: just doing the minimum required to slow down and make it look like they’re doing something, is not enough,” Grimes said.
“We have to take it many steps further. Iran can never, ever achieve its nuclear ambitions.”
One way to bring Israel and Arab nations closer together, he said, is by investing in energy projects such as the East Med pipeline.