Israel’s ambassador to US to complete tenure after September elections

Ron Dermer to end stint in Washington after six years, despite requests from Netanyahu and FM Israel Katz to stay on

Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the United States, speaks at the Economic Club of Detroit in Detroit, Michigan, on June 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the United States, speaks at the Economic Club of Detroit in Detroit, Michigan, on June 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Israel’s Civil Service Commissioner has rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to extend the tenure of Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer.

Netanyahu had asked to extend Dermer’s time in the position by another year in light of the upcoming September elections, Israel’s second round at the polls in six months, Channel 12 news reported on Saturday.

The premier considers Dermer a confidant and a trusted connection to the White House.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz reportedly backed Netanyahu’s request, to no avail.

Dermer is set to wrap up his stint in Washington at the end of September after serving six years as Israel’s envoy to the US.

Dermer began serving as Israel’s envoy in Washington in 2013, shortly after former president Barack Obama began his second term.

Periods of his time in the role during the Obama administration could be described as strained. Dermer was a vociferous opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, signed in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers including the US.

He famously orchestrated Netanyahu’s backdoor invitation to address Congress lambasting the accord, a moment that is widely regarded as stoking a partisan divide on Israel in Washington.

Earlier this year, Dermer, a former Republican operative, told a crowd of 18,000 at AIPAC’s annual conference that Netanyahu’s speech that day was the “proudest day that I’ve had as ambassador to Israel to the United States.”

US President Donald Trump removed the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as the deal is formally known, and renewed sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Last month, an off-the-record speech by Dermer noting a gap in support for Israel between Republicans and Democrats drew rebukes from the liberal wing of the pro-Israel community, which accused him of politicizing support for Israel.

Dermer was addressing a Republican Jewish Coalition leadership meeting in Washington, DC. The Republican Jewish Coalition tweeted paraphrased portions of his address.

“There has been, for 40 years, a gap between Republicans and Democrats in their support for Israel,” one tweet said. “He notes that this predates, by decades, Trump, Netanyahu, Obama and any other reason that Democrats would cite.”

Democrats have been more pronounced in recent years in their criticisms of Netanyahu, arising in part from his tensions with Obama and his closeness to Trump. A nadir was Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in 2015 opposing Obama’s Iran policy, which Dermer helped organize without consulting Democrats.

In another tweet, Dermer said that “a big reason for this has been the enormous rise in support for Israel among Republicans. However, there is a rise in the American left-wing of anti-Israel sentiment. These are the same people that don’t believe America is a force for good …”

During a different speech earlier in June at the American Jewish Committee, Dermer emphasized that Democratic support for Israel has remained steady while Republican support has skyrocketed.

Dermer cited Gallup polling since the late 1980s that shows support for Israel among Democratic voters hovering steadily between the low 40s and the high 50s in percentages, while GOP voters have spiked from the same range in the late 1980s and now run from the upper 70s to the upper 80s.

But a Gallup poll released in March showed that support for Israel in the American public is at its lowest point in a decade, with a whopping decline among self-identified Republicans who said they sympathized more with Israelis than Palestinians.

Whereas 65 percent of Americans said they were “more sympathetic” to Israel over the Palestinians in 2018, 59% said the same in 2019, marking a six-point drop. That decline is the biggest over a one-year period in the history of the poll, which began in 2001.

The 2019 survey found that the decline in sympathy for Israel extended to both of America’s major political parties. While support for Israel among Democrats dropped by 6%, Republican support declined by 13%, a staggering figure in light of Trump’s cultivation of an intensely close relationship with Netanyahu.

“The percentage of Republicans saying they sympathize more with Israel in the conflict fell from an all-time high of 87% in 2018 to 76% today,” the poll said.

The percentage of people who identified as political independents remained the same over the last year, with 60% sympathizing more with Israel.

JTA contributed to this report.

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