Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer has no regrets about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to a joint session of Congress last year, for which he made the arrangements with the Republican leadership.
Dermer dismissed critics who charged that it unnecessarily exacerbated tensions with U.S. President Barack Obama, whom aides said had not been consulted beforehand, a breach of protocol that reportedly enraged the White House.
Describing it as the highlight of his tenure in Washington “from a national point of view,” he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview:
“In my eyes, the prime minister fulfilled a fundamental moral obligation to speak out about a potential threat to the survival of our country,” he said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal. “This was a sovereign right that the Jewish people were long denied, and the failure to exercise that right would have been a gross dereliction of his duty as prime minister of Israel,” he said.
Dermer rejected the idea that the speech was a strategic error that set back Israel-U.S. ties.
“The fact that the prime minister spoke up in the face of so much unjust criticism is not just a highlight of my tenure in Washington but, in my view, one of the highlights of his premiership and one of the many reasons I am so proud to serve him,” he said.
Dermer added that “the fallout of the [Iran] deal will prove much more lasting than the fallout over fighting that deal. In fact, in my view, real lasting damage would have come from not opposing something that poses an existential threat to our country.”
Regarding peristent warnings of a growing disaffection in American Jewry for Israel because of the Netanyahu government’s polices, Dermer said that “the fiercest critics make a ‘disproportionate’ share of the noise.”
While saying there is “broad, strong and deep support for Israel” among American Jewry, he added that if there was alienation of some Jews from Israel it was generally a function of the alienation of these Jews from their Jewish identity.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that Jews with a weaker Jewish identity will tend to have a weaker identification with the Jewish state,” he said.