The Israel-US relations in the Netanyahu era

Now that we have a cease fire and there is more attention to the changing dynamics in the US – Israel relationship, I would like to draw attention to an event that took place before the last round of violence.

We had an opportunity to hear from Ron Dermer his views on the Israeli-US relations that he presented at the Makor Rishon gala event (May 9) in an interview with Amit Segal. This interview was very important to understand the Netanyahu government’s policy toward the US that Dermer was its’ main designer.

Dermer was Israel’s ambassador to Washington for 7 years and shaped the Netanyahu policy also before as policy adviser to the Prime Minister’s. From personal acquaintance with him, I can testify that Dermer is one of the most talented diplomats that I ever met, but he has led policies that have caused monumental damage to Israel. The damage was done in three very strategic components: Israel’s connection with American Jewry, The bilateral relations between Israel and the United States and the American influence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in the Middle East in general.

The issue, which received media coverage, was his statement that Israel should prioritize its relationship with the Evangelical Christians over the Jews of America. Such a statement stands in clear contrast to the mission of the State of Israel as defined in the Declaration of Independence – to constitute a home for the entire Jewish people, including those who do not live in Israel.

Dermer’s favors Evangelical Christians whose vision is a “Gog and Magog” war between the “sons of light and the sons of darkness” in Armageddon (Megiddo) – a war in which most of us are likely to be killed, and those who remain will convert to Christianity. I highly recommend in this respect to see the documentary film by Maya Zinshtein “Till Kingdom Come” which describes this *phenomenon. This choice of evangelicals over the Jews, simply because they support the positions of Likud governments, is no less than shocking.

Dermer complains that the vast majority of American Jews do not support the Netanyahu’s government policies, but the truth is that their connection to Israel is much deeper and more important to us than the evangelicals, who see us as a perishable tool for advancing apocalyptic messianic theology. Most American Jews, on the other hand, see the connection with Israel as a central issue in expressing their Jewish values, and their critical stance stems precisely from caring for their national home, which they expect to be an example and role model.

Instead of using his influence on the prime minister to get the Israeli establishment to invest in our brothers and sisters across the ocean, to respect the way they choose to practice their Judaism and to create a constructive dialogue with them (as New York Consul Danny Dayan tried to do despite his similar political views with Dermer but a completely different understanding of the meaning and importance of the relationship with American Jewry) – he significantly widened the gaps between us and them in a way that harms our very destiny as a state.

Dermer also fatally damaged Israel’s relations with the United States, which until Netanyahu’s time were based on a bipartisan infrastructure, which was the secret of the success of the “special relations” for many years. Dermer did so out of loyalty to his emissaries, but did not understand the strategic damage he caused. He acted in the belief that it was in Israel’s interest, but did not understand that Netanyahu was using him for his own personal interests, centered on the deal with Sheldon Adelson that Bibi would strengthen Adelson’s preferred party in the US in exchange for strengthening Bibi by funding a free monopoly on Netanyahu’s mouthpieces.

When I heard that Drummer was attending auditions conducted by Adelson for Republican candidates to decide which campaign he would fund, I was deeply shocked. I remember how I repeatedly refused as a Consul General in the U.S. to attend fundraising events for candidates. When the then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama arrived in Boston, a close mutual friend invited me to meet him, and I insisted that the meeting be held outside the event. I did attach a professional importance and even had a great personal interest in getting to know all the candidates from both parties, but realized that we can’t take side.

Dermer was behind the fundraising event in Israel in favor of Mitt Romney who was the candidate the then prime minister’s office hoped would defeat Obama. Dermer was the architect of Netanyahu’s invitation to the US Congress to challenge the agenda of an incumbent president, an event that was largely a crossroads in making Israel a wedge issue in political controversy between the parties. He did all this damage in order to prevent an agreement that the vast majority of senior members of our defense establishment in Israel saw as the best alternative at the time for Israel’s security. Dermer also influenced the Trump administration to abandon the agreement and thus fatally damaged Israel’s security as Iran has since moved significantly closer to military nuclear capabilities. The unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA trashed the coalition between the world powers to isolate Iran and isolated Israel and the US instead of isolating Iran.

Dermer, in collaboration with Friedman who was his American counterpart in Israel, tried to take advantage of President Trump’s ignorance to make sure his narcissism shaped the illusory “plan of the century” in which the two-state solution would be demolished and significant Palestinian territories annexed. Luckily for us, Trump son-in-law Kushner, who was in touch with the countries in the region understood that annexation would not allow Trump to advance US policy in the Middle East nor his private business in the region, and provided an alternative plan the “Abraham agreements”.

Dermer was able to unite with the Evangelical Christians leaders in pressuring Trump to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem (a helpful step if only done right) in a way that completely ignored the Palestinian connection to East Jerusalem and the holy sites of Islam. Following this move, the United States became irrelevant in the Palestinian issue, and instead contributed to advancing the possibility that Israel would eventually become (had Trump stayed in office) a bi-national apartheid state.

Demer’s term as ambassador should be taught in diplomacy schools, because his abilities and effectiveness to advance the (harmful) policy of his emissaries were very impressive, but in the faculties of the history of Zionism this period will be taught as extremely harmful to the State of Israel and to its founders’ dream.

About the Author
Nadav Tamir is the executive director of J Street Israel, a member of the board of the Mitvim think-tank, adviser for international affairs at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and member of the steering committee of the Geneva Initiative. He was an adviser of President Shimon Peres and served in the Israel embassy in Washington and as consul general to New England.
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