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Washington — Dermer lets little stand in his way. Oren — also U.S. born and beloved by the U.S. Jewish community — wanted to keep his job, insiders say, and the only reason he was removed is that Dermer wanted the envoy post.
Long before Dermer was formally named as the new ambassador, he was taking calls from Jewish schools and synagogues in Washington eager for his membership.
Oren and his two predecessors, Salai Meridor and Daniel Ayalon, made outreach to the U.S. Jewish community a hallmark of their tenure. Oren in particular was sensitive to anger in the Jewish community over Israel’s perceived discrimination against women and helped broker a tentative compromise that would allow for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.
In 2009, Dermer said he considered cultivating ties with the American Jewish community’s liberal wing a waste of time. Dermer is believed to be behind the liberal lobby J Street’s inability to secure meetings with high-level officials during its Israel trips. Oren, by contrast, has forged low-level ties with the group.
Like other Jewish groups, J Street welcomed Dermer’s appointment.
Dermer also led efforts in the Prime Minister’s Office to ban foreign funding of human rights groups in Israel, likening the groups that accepted such funding to agents of foreign powers. Some of the groups have the support of leading Jewish liberal benefactors from the United States.
Dermer’s defenders in Washington say those issues are dwarfed by the immediate challenges facing Israeli-U.S. interests in the Middle East.
“He will be an effective representative of the State of Israel generally, and Prime Minister Netanyahu specifically, as we are in a crucial period of U.S.-Israel relations with the need to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” said William Daroff, who directs the Jewish Federations of North America’s Washington office.
Unprompted, Foxman, Harris and Daroff all made the same point: Dermer’s closeness to Netanyahu is what will make his time in Washington a success.
“The most important thing for any ambassador in Washington, especially any Israeli ambassador, is that he brings the full trust of the prime minister,” Harris said. “That’s an asset you cannot put a price on.
“What it says to the host country is that I am sending someone in whom I have full confidence, so when you talk to him you have a direct conduit to me.”