Dermer to run point on White House, seek normalization deal with Saudis — report

Former envoy to the US Ron Dermer will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s point man with the White House, Channel 12 news reports.

Dermer, who was given a vaguely defined Strategic Affairs Ministry role, will use the post to attempt to expand the Abraham Accords, specifically seeking a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia. He will also have a seat on the high-level security cabinet, according to the report.

According to the channel, Jerusalem and Washington are working together to clinch a deal with the Saudis which would involve an Israeli okay for US arms sales to Riyadh, similar to the fighter jet sales that underpinned Israel’s normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

File: Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States, walks through the Capitol in Washington, September 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Saudi Arabia will demand Israel back off any plans to annex West Bank lands, which Netanyahu already nixed for the UAE deal, seek commitments regarding the preservation of the status quo on the Temple Mount and also seek moves to ease life for the Palestinians, the channel claims without a source.

The reports are redolent of overhyped speculation in the Israeli press two years ago regarding supposed Saudi willingness to consider normalization with Israel. Saudi Arabia’s 2002 peace plan called for an Israeli-Palestinian deal as a prerequisite to normalization, a paradigm that the Abraham Accords has turned on its head.

Netanyahu’s hard-line partners Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, major proponents of Israeli annexation of the West Bank, have reportedly committed to not make any moves that would torpedo a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, Channel 12 says.

According to the report, even if the Saudis are not convinced, Netanyahu may still use the prospect of a deal to rein in Smotrich and Ben Gvir.

The choice of Dermer as point man on the White House comes some seven years after he was essentially made persona non grata by the Obama administration, amid accusations that he and Netanyahu were working closely with Republicans to publicly oppose the White House on Iran.

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