Ron Dermer, Benjamin Netanyahu’s close adviser known for his strong ties with Republican politicians, will reportedly be Israel’s next ambassador to the United States.
Several Israeli media outlets reported Friday that Netanyahu has made a final decision on the selection and will officially tap Dermer for the post in coming days. Dermer will replace Michael Oren who has been serving as Israel’s ambassador to Washington for the past four years.
An Israeli source with close knowledge of the issue confirmed to the Forward that Dermer’s nomination for the post has been discussed in recent weeks and that he was Netanyahu’s first choice for the job. The source could not confirm, however, that a final decision has been made.
Dermer, 42, served until recently as Netanayhu’s senior adviser at the prime minister’s office. He was born in the United States and moved to Israel in 1998 and entered politics first as an aide to Natan Shransky, with whom he co-authored the book “The Case for Democracy,” which was adopted by former president George W. Bush and by many in his administration as a roadmap to democracy in the Middle East.
Dermer’s father and brother both served as Democratic mayors of Miami Beach, but the the family also forged close ties with the Bush family. Ron Dermer chose cultivated ties with the Republicans and grew close to neo-conservative circles, initially through his friendship with Richard Perle, one of the top strategists associated with the neo-conservative school of thought.
Dermer’s close knowledge of American politics and his relationships with members of Congress made him a valuable asset for Netanyahu. Their joint work began after Netanyahu lost the 1999 elections and has remained strong ever since. In 2004 Netanyahu appointed Dermer as Israel’s economic attaché in Washington, a position he held for four years before returning to Jerusalem to join Netanyahu’s campaign for prime minister.
But Dermer’s close political ties in America were also seen as a handicap when dealing with Obama’s Democratic administration. Israeli sources has said in the past that Dermer was viewed by the White House as the source behind several negative articles about President Obama written by pro-Israel pundits. According to press reports, Israeli officials also got the impression that Dermer doubted Obama would win a second term and told his colleagues in Jerusalem to prepare for a Mitt Romney presidency.
In his years working on the intersection of American and Israeli affairs, Dermer cultivated close ties with the established Jewish community and has served as the main point of contact for Jewish leaders at the prime minister’s office.
According to another Israeli media report, Netanyahu had some initial hesitations regarding Dermer’s appointment to the top Washington post, of fear it would be seen by the Obama administration as an antagonistic move. However, in recent weeks the issue had been discussed between Israeli and U.S. officials and it became clear the administration would not oppose Dermer’s nomination.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.