Ron Dermer & Danny Danon: Presenting Israel's case

#26: Ron Dermer & Danny Danon

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon (L) and Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer (photo credit: REUTERS/MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon (L) and Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer
Two of Israel’s most important diplomatic posts – ambassador to the US and ambassador to the UN – are currently held by one man whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thinks could be a worthy successor, Ron Dermer, and another who would like to be: Danny Danon.
When asked not long ago in a private conversation whom he thought would succeed him as the country’s leader, Netanyahu – without missing a beat – said Dermer. Not any of the hopefuls on his cabinet or on the Likud’s Knesset list – not Gideon Sa’ar, nor Gilad Erdan, Israel Katz, Yuli Edelstein or Tzachi Hanegbi – but Dermer.
And it is not as if this is any way in the cards – the American born, raised and educated Dermer has shown no indication of any interest to enter the rough and tumble of Likud politics, nor is there a grassroots “Draft Dermer” movement inside the Likud. Netanyahu was asked a theoretical question, and he gave a theoretical answer.
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But the answer is telling of the exceptional high regard in which Netanyahu holds his ambassador to the US, the one senior adviser around Netanyahu left standing since he moved back into the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009. Netanyahu likes Dermer, respects him, trusts him, and takes his counsel seriously – which is what makes him an especially influential ambassador in Washington.
True, Dermer has made his share of enemies among Democrats in the US, and the August kerfuffle over Jerusalem’s refusal to let congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib into Israel – after Dermer said they would be allowed in – led to some talk about a move in Congress to actually censure him.
But Dermer has been in that position before, and lived to tell about it. Following the Democratic anger that followed Netanyahu’s speech to Congress against the Iranian nuclear deal in 2015, voices were raised saying that Dermer – because of his role in making that speech possible – was persona non grata for many in Washington and would never work there again.
Yet he has. He has worked there because of his ability to represent his boss better than anyone else could. When decision-makers talk to Dermer, they know that what they are hearing reflects Netanyahu’s opinions, and that what they say will be faithfully relayed back to the prime minister. Dermer does not have to go through various secondary channels or send cables. He talks to the prime minister directly, whenever he wants.
Danon is another story. While Netanyahu wanted Dermer in Washington back in 2103 because he wanted someone there whom he could trust fully and in whom he had complete confidence, he sent Danon to the UN in 2015 to get him out of the way. Back then Danon was one of the few inside of Likud challenging Netanyahu’s leadership, so Netanyahu shuffled him off to New York.
The move was good for Netanyahu – it removed a political nuisance from the Right nipping at his heels – and good for Danon. An ambitious politician who never hid his hope to one day sit in the prime minister’s chair, Danon – looking at Netanyahu’s own biography – figured he could build up his foreign policy credentials by serving a stint as Israel’s ambassador to the world body.
In the process, he actually liked and developed a knack for the job, and when he had to make a decision in January whether to remain at the UN – his term has now been extended until the end of the year – or come back and compete in the Likud primaries, he opted to stay in New York.
And at the UN he is witnessing and having a hand in bringing about snail-like changes – but changes nonetheless – in the organization’s attitude toward Israel.
The old dictum that the Palestinians could bring a resolution to the UN saying that the world is flat and two-thirds of the world body would enthusiastically vote for it is not as true as it once was. Today the Palestinians have to wage a battle to get measures passed that – in days past – were considered a slam dunk. They still get those measures passed, but there are more questions, more dissent, more abstentions.
The Palestinians, Danon told The Jerusalem Post earlier this year, understand that the UN is no longer their “home field” and “absolutely in their hands. They understand that they no longer have carte blanche, and that we can fight back.”
Much of that has to do with the backing Israel receives in the body from the US. Danon is fortunate to be representing Israel in the world body at a time when Washington is giving it full and unstinting support there. What Danon has done is effectively leverage that support and create relationships to improve Israel’s position – if only one centimeter at a time – on the world’s biggest stage.