Nov 21, 2022 - World

U.S. officials hope Netanyahu ally Dermer gets senior post in Israeli government

Ron Dermer

Ron Dermer on Nov. 6, 2021. Photo: Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Biden administration officials say they hope Ron Dermer, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington and incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s close confidant, will be appointed to a senior post in the new Israeli government.

Why it matters: The Obama administration had a difficult history with Dermer, but Biden officials believe they can "talk to" him and say "he understands the [U.S.-Israeli] relationship," especially amid concerns that radical right-wing politicians and those from Jewish supremacist parties will get senior jobs in the new Israeli government.

What they're saying: “We had our differences with Dermer, but we would be happy to work with him in the next government," a senior Biden administration said.

  • "We know him well" and he understands "the political and diplomatic sensitivities about the issues that are on the table right now," the official added.

Behind the scenes: Secretary of State Tony Blinken, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and U.S. ambassador to Israel Tom Nides know Dermer from their work during the Obama administration.

  • In the weeks leading to the Israeli elections and even more so since the elections, Nides and Dermer have been in constant contact, according to U.S. sources.

Flashback: Dermer was appointed as ambassador in 2013 at the beginning of former President Obama's second term.

  • He had a very tense and difficult relationship with the White House during that time.
  • Then-national security adviser Susan Rice and other White House officials saw Dermer as a Republican political operative who was interfering in domestic U.S. politics. Referring to the late billionaire casino owner and Republican megadonor, Sheldon Adelson, Rice once joked that she hadn't met with Dermer because he was "too busy traveling to Sheldon Adelson’s events in Las Vegas."
  • Things grew even tenser after Dermer orchestrated, together with then-Speaker John Boehner, Netanyahu's March 2015 speech to Congress behind the White House's back.
  • The speech, which focused on urging members of Congress to oppose the nuclear deal the Obama administration negotiated with Iran, created deep anger towards Israel among some Democratic politicians.

State of play: Netanyahu asked Dermer to be his national security adviser, but he refused and asked to be appointed as the foreign minister, Likud sources.

  • It is unclear if Netanyahu can give Dermer the foreign minister post due to the incoming prime minister's political need to give ministerial jobs to senior members of the Likud party.
  • One option is that Dermer will be appointed as a minister in the prime minister’s office who will be in charge of the relations with the U.S. and the efforts to get normalization agreements with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
  • Dermer didn’t respond to Axios' request for comment.
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