Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, stands to gain much when President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in on January 20. A longtime fan of the newly minted leader of the free world, Dermer is likely to be a guest of honor at the White House after enduring a chilly relationship with President Obama.
“He likely is to become much more influential,” Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Politico, “now that he will be interacting with a more friendly White House, which doesn’t spend its waking moments wondering how to undermine him and his government.”
Dermer himself senses that, telling MSNBC in an interview last month that he expected “a policy of no daylight between the new administration and Israel,” something that he qualified as “very different from the policy that you’ve had over the last eight years.”
Israel’s envoy, who has defended the appointment of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and cheered the appointment of David Friedman as the United States ambassador to Israel, has a history with Trump from before the election campaign.
The two spoke at the same gathering at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 2014, where Dermer said that Trump’s business career and memoir “The Art of the Deal,” inspired him to also attend the institution and become an entrepreneur.
“Mr. Trump,” he said, in the transcript of a speech obtained by Politico, “the truth is, I wanted to be your apprentice.”
Replaced Michael Oren three years ago, Dermer has entertained a tense relationship with the Obama White House, which saw the American-born former Republican operative as partisan and seeking to embarrass the administration.
This came to a head in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal, when he and conservative leaders were said to have engineered a speech to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the wishes and behind the back of President Obama.
Obama aides reflected their apprehension in comments to Politico. “The job of any ambassador is to advance his or her country’s agenda with the host government, and if you take that as a core task, then by any measure Ron Dermer failed,” an unnamed West Wing staffer said. “His style and his tactics neither served the Israeli government or the Israeli people.”
Dermer has not been shy either, in attacking Obama and his aides during the transition period, referring to Obama’s foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes as an “expert in fiction” and blasting the administration’s decision to abstain on a United Nations’ Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement building on the West Bank.
As expected, conservatives gleeful to see Obama turn out the lights in the West Wing are also anticipating a reset of the relationship between the White House and Dermer.
“It is in the best interests of the U.S. to have a close working relationship with Israel, which we will undoubtedly have with President Trump and Ambassador Dermer,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, speaking to Politico. “Ambassador Dermer is a smart, thoughtful, passionate diplomat whose advice and counsel will be respected by the new Administration.”
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.