Washington — (JTA) — “I was with him when…” was the theme of Ron Dermer’s speech to the 2009 American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.
Dermer used the phrase five times in the first five minutes of the speech — the “him” being Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I can shed a little insight into the mind of the Israeli prime minister,” Dermer told the crowd. “Because on that I’m something of an expert.”
Two elements of the address, made just weeks after Netanyahu assumed office, explain Dermer’s ascension this week to the country’s most important diplomatic post, the ambassadorship to Washington.
Dermer has a closeness to Netanyahu so steadfast that it does not inhibit his brashness in boasting about it. And Dermer utterly buys into Netanyahu’s most cherished notion about himself — that he has been right when others have been wrong.
“He’s a man of basic core convictions who has time after time been willing to stand against the current when it was not popular,” Dermer told AIPAC.
Born to a family of conservative Democrats in Miami — his father and brother are both former Miami Beach mayors — Dermer, 42, served as Netanyahu’s top adviser from his assumption of office in March 2009 until his new term began in March of this year.
But Dermer is known for more than just loyalty to his boss. His reputation is as a brash political player dismissive of those with whom he disagrees.
He is rumored to be the one responsible for news stories about Obama’s supposed snub of Netanyahu during his 2010 White House visit. And Obama administration officials believe he was behind Netanyahu’s perceived tilt toward Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election.
“To me, it’s not an ideal choice as he’s seen as extremely political and as someone who has repeatedly gone to the press with negative stories,” a former Obama administration official told JTA. “You want someone trusted and discreet to be your ambassador.”