Why Ron Dermer could be an MK but won't - analysis

Whoever Netanyahu drafts for his reserved slots has now heard the message of what he is looking for loud and clear from the floating of Dermer's name.

US Ambassador Ron Dermer  (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Ambassador Ron Dermer
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Every morning just after 6 a.m., Army Radio senior anchor Efi Triger sets Israel’s agenda for the day on his Good Morning Israel program when he reads the headlines from the daily newspapers.
On Monday morning, he astutely noticed that Maariv and The Jerusalem Post – sister newspapers with the same owner – had exact opposite headlines on their front pages.
While Maariv reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to reserve a slot on the Likud list for outgoing ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, the Post reported that Dermer would not be a Knesset candidate and that Netanyahu was not considering running him.
The Post report was confirmed by three separate sources who are very close to the prime minister including those currently involved in decision-making on the Likud’s future. But presumably, the media outlets reporting differently had their well-placed sources, too.
That leads to the question of why would Likud officials float Dermer’s name.
The most obvious answer is that Dermer is acknowledged by even his critics to be a brilliant, Oxford-educated political consultant who is finishing a successful seven-and-a-half-year term in Washington.
But, in Israeli politics, brilliance and past success are not necessarily seen as particularly desirable qualities when drafting a Knesset member. Some of the worst MKs have been too smart and successful for their own good.
What makes floating Dermer’s name particularly beneficial to Netanyahu is that it sends an important message to his current MKs at a very sensitive time. The message is that they must be loyal to Netanyahu and the party.
Dermer has had Netanyahu’s ear as an adviser and then ambassador for twelve years. No one else has lasted that long in such key posts around Netanyahu, maintaining both his trust and respect. No one has a reputation as being more loyal to the prime minister.
There is no more key time to send that message of the need for loyalty than now, right after five Likud MKs defected to Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party.
Netanyahu is expected to seek the right to cancel the Likud’s primary and draft new Knesset candidates by himself at the Likud’s Law Committee meeting on Wednesday.
Whomever Netanyahu drafts for his reserved slots has now heard the message of what he is looking for loud and clear from the floating of Dermer’s name.
When Netanyahu’s actual choices for the slots are revealed, don’t be surprised if they are people who have pledged to be loyal to the prime minister in good times and bad.
That day, Triger will read their names on the radio, and the newspapers will have matching headlines.