Ron Dermer Faces Big Challenges as Israel’s New Ambassador to the U.S.

Brings GOP Baggage as Tension Rises Over Iran

American Born: Ron Dermer renounced his U.S. citizenship to serve in Israel’s government.
Courtesy of the Embassy of israel
American Born: Ron Dermer renounced his U.S. citizenship to serve in Israel’s government.

By Nathan Guttman

Published November 26, 2013, issue of November 29, 2013.
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Ron Dermer really had to hit the ground running.

Before even getting a chance to unpack his bags and settle in, Israel’s new ambassador to the United States has been thrust into one of the toughest challenges an Israeli envoy can face: a major row between Jerusalem and Washington over Iran’s nuclear program, the issue that tops Israel’s priority list.

Dermer has spent his first two months in Washington shuttling between Capitol Hill and the White House to present Israel’s reservations about the deal being negotiated with Iran. In the short run, the effort had failed, as Dermer and Israeli officials were not able to stop Secretary of State John Kerry from signing an interim agreement they deemed as “bad for Israel” with his Iranian colleague Javad Zarif on Friday night. But in the next six months, as a final deal is negotiated, the new ambassador will have his hands full trying to defeat an agreement that would allow Iran to continue enriching uranium.

Advocating against the policy of a host country is a difficult task, even for seasoned diplomats. The challenge is all the more daunting for a newcomer who must express his country’s position while avoiding domestic political pitfalls.

For Dermer, however, that challenge is both easier and harder at the same time. On the one hand, his ability to work his way through domestic American politics will no doubt be aided by the fact that he is a native-born and raised American. On the other hand, he comes to Washington with the added baggage of close past ties to Republican circles that some view as partisan, and with perceived support for President Obama’s rivals.

So far, officials on both sides of the aisle say that Dermer has succeeded in avoiding this minefield, at least in his initial dealings on the Iranian issue.

Meeting with a group of lawmakers on November 20, Dermer made sure to praise President Obama’s support for Israel and his relationship with Netanyahu.


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