No Positive Change with Washington
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The reported story that Bibi plans to appoint his friend and very close political adviser Ron Dermer to be the next Israeli Ambassador in Washington when Ambassador Michael Oren leaves the post in the spring, is once again a signal that Jerusalem still wants to dabble in U.S. politics more than it wants to change the atmospherics between Netanyahu and Obama. Like his predecessor, Dermer is an American born, Ivy League educated friend of the Prime Minister, who has strictly hardline political credentials with no independent qualifications like the impressive scholarly ones that Oren brought to the post.
Dermer, unlike Oren, has genuine family connection to Republican politics in the U.S. and was reported to have been a major influence on Bibi’s transparent support of Romney during the fall campaign. He has Washington experience and understands the nature of the Capital’s political game. The problem is Dermer is clearly labeled as supportive not only of Israeli right wing politics but American as well; so much so that it may well take a miracle for him to gain true acceptability from the Obama Middle East team. While Aaron David Miller is correct that the Israeli ambassador merely carries the Prime Minister’s water in D.C., the White House does not need to be fluent in Israeli slang to comprehend that at best the affection that Dermer personally will be bring from Jerusalem to Washington will be tepid at best.
The question is why would Bibi make this type of appointment at this critical time in the U.S.-Israeli relationship? Why not try to soften and mollify Washington as both countries address the Iran threat in the months ahead? Why not appoint someone who has record of being genuinely in favor of the peace process and not a hard-liner?
After hitting it off well during the eight day Gaza war and then getting into problems over the announced settlement expansion, Bibi could have chosen a less partisan choice who likely will only annoy the Obama Administration and buoy the American Jewish right and the Washington Republicans. If he had in mind to make a bolder, more conciliatory choice, he could have waited until after the elections in Israel and thus avoided being attacked from his own political right. Instead, the Netanyahu hardliners have opted to sustain a very firm, even hostile attitude towards the Obama Administration, once again without making any genuine move to show the President that Bibi will stay out of American politics during the next four years.
This is not the message a person sends to his friend for the New Year.