Bibi’s Brain: Meet Ron Dermer, Israel’s new ambassador to the U.S.
Ron Dermer, a Florida-born Jew who started in politics working on the 1994 Republican Revolution, is Benjamin Netanyahu’s most influential aide.
The Prime Minister’s Office, Israel’s equivalent to the West Wing of the White House, is a nondescript complex located in Givat Ram, a neighborhood at Jerusalem’s western edge. Most of the building, which sits in the shadow of the hulking Bank of Israel and the grandly winged Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is given over to bureaucratic departments, but at its heart sits the Aquarium, a block sealed behind a series of passcard-protected glass doors that is the government’s nerve center. It’s where the prime minister—currently, Benjamin Netanyahu—does his business. Netanyahu’s national-security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, works in an adjacent room, and next to that is a modest suite belonging to an American Jew named Ron Dermer. Dermer is the prime minister’s alter-ego, and he has done more to shape Israel’s relationship with the United States, its Arab neighbors, and the Palestinians over the past few years than any man aside from the prime minister himself.
Dermer’s title is senior adviser to the prime minister, and he’s a jack-of-all-trades—strategist, pollster, and speechwriter for Netanyahu, as well as his chief proxy in foreign affairs. A constant presence in Netanyahu’s meetings in Washington, he has helped shape Israel’s posture in the American capital most notably through Netanyahu’s spring speech to the U.S. Congress, which foiled President Barack Obama’s effort to pressure the prime minister into meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians. “Bibi doesn’t move an inch without talking to him,” said one person who has been in meetings with both men.
At 40, Dermer has a full head of dark hair under his small knit kippah and the hyperkinetic energy of a man who is still young. A Wharton-schooled economist and Oxford-trained political theorist with Machiavellian political instincts, Dermer comes across as equal parts George Stephanopoulos and Karl Rove. He is a ferocious competitor who quarterbacked Israel’s flag-football team in the sport’s World Cup three times. “He cannot abide anybody being better at him than anything, particularly physically,” said his friend Tom Rose, a former publisher of the Jerusalem Post. “He wouldn’t let a 3-year-old beat him at Ping-Pong.”
Dermer is in some ways a successor to the Americans and returning expatriates who figured prominently in Netanyahu’s first stint in the Aquarium, from 1996 to 1999. One was David Bar-Illan, the late newspaper editor and Juilliard-trained pianist who served as Netanyahu’s chief spokesman. Dore Gold, the Connecticut-born academic who was Netanyahu’s first-term ambassador to the United Nations and now runs a national-security think tank in Jerusalem, is another.
But the current Netanyahu government is perhaps more Anglo-inflected than any other in Israeli history. Gold’s one-time Columbia classmate, the historian Michael Oren, serves as Netanyahu’s ambassador to the United States, a post Oren renounced his American citizenship to accept. The MIT economist Stanley Fischer governs the Bank of Israel, a position that required him to take on Israeli citizenship and learn some Hebrew. Until last year, Netanyahu’s chief scheduler was a California-born immigrant named Ari Harow, who first met Dermer a decade ago when the two squared off on opposing Israeli flag-football teams.
Yet of all the Americans in the Aquarium, Dermer is uniquely fluent in Israel’s convoluted coalition government system, and he is adept at defending Netanyahu’s partisan flanks. His professional political background gives him another asset: exceptionally deep and longstanding relationships with Washington’s Republican establishment, particularly its neoconservative wing, which are entirely independent of his connection to Netanyahu. The youngest son of a Miami Beach politico, Dermer took a job right out of college in Washington as an assistant to Frank Luntz, the Republican consultant who engineered the watershed 1994 “Contract With America” House campaign for Newt Gingrich. His second was in Jerusalem, as a pollster for the Soviet-dissident-turned-Israeli-politician Natan Sharansky, a connection forged with help from Richard Perle, the Reagan (and, later, George W. Bush) Administration defense specialist.
For a young, ambitious wonk there was no question where the better action was. “In those years—1993, 1994, 1995—public policy was fairly insignificant,” Dermer said in an interview last month in his Jerusalem office. “When I came to Israel the excitement about it was that the decisions ahead of it were so consequential to the future of the country and to the Jewish people.”
He arrived in the shadow of the Oslo Accords and Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination to find a country divided: not just between doves and hawks, he said, but between secular and religious Jews, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, between native-born Israelis and newcomers from the former Soviet Union. It was, in other words, exciting. “I wanted to do something where every day I could do what I wanted to do, not something where maybe 20 or 30 or 40 years later I could maybe have some influence on some decision,” Dermer told me, leaning back in his chair. “I wanted to have an impact in some way, and an influence in some way on a country that was making these great historic decisions and that still had to make those decisions.”
Armed with luck and excellent connections, Dermer enjoyed an accelerated ride into the heart of the country’s power structure that would have been difficult if not impossible to match stateside. “He made the right choice,” said Luntz, his former mentor. “He maintains his American sensibilities but he always had an Israeli mind, and he could function there in ways many of us could not. You’ve got to be tough to not just survive but to thrive.”
Dermer still thinks of himself as an American, and he still defines his political decisions by Washington standards. “When I think about Israel, I always ask myself, I call it the WWAD question: ‘What would America do?’ ” he said, smacking the desk with his palms for added effect. “As somebody born and raised in the United States, I have absolutely no doubt that America would take more forceful action if faced by the threats facing Israel.”
Netanyahu, who lived in New York and Philadelphia as a kid and went to college and graduate school at MIT, hardly needs an American like Dermer to help him speak American. Dermer offers the Israeli prime minister something deeper. He embodies the ideal combination of intellectual pedigree, physical prowess, and family commitment prized by Israelis of Netanyahu’s generation. He shares—and, by his choice to become Israeli, affirms—Netanyahu’s conviction about the outsize role that Israel plays in the grand sweep not just of Jewish history, but also of Western history. Perhaps most important, 15 years after moving to Israel, Dermer retains the brash confidence of a born Yankee—a quality that’s harder to pick up than an accent and precious to a politician like Netanyahu, who plainly yearns for his fellow Israeli Jews to feel they share the same superpower birthright as their American cousins.
As one long-time observer of Israeli politics noted, “If you look at Ron, you see Bibi.” This week, when the prime minister addresses the member states of the United Nations, amid heated debate and a potential vote on Palestinian statehood, the face the world will see will be Netanyahu’s, but the words they hear—many of them, at least—will be Dermer’s.
In the fall of 1989, when he was 18, Ron Dermer left Miami Beach for the University of Pennsylvania, to study finance and management, figuring he’d wind up on Wall Street. Instead, he eventually found himself drawn to the family business: politics.
Dermer’s father, Jay, a trial lawyer from New York, had made his way to Florida as a young man and in 1967 won his first election as mayor of Miami Beach when he ousted Elliot Roosevelt, one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sons. (The New York Times later reported on rumors circulating around town that the city’s voters, an estimated 80 percent of whom were Jewish, wanted to punish the younger Roosevelt for his father’s sins in failing to accept more Jewish refugees from Germany during World War II.) Jay Dermer made himself, briefly, into a national gadfly once the city won the rights to host the 1968 Republican convention, firing off letters to the networks complaining every time an anchor said the gathering was being held in Miami, rather than Miami Beach, a separate city.
Dermer’s mother, Yaffa Rosenthal, was born in Mandate Palestine in 1936 but moved with her parents—Jews who fled Poland and Germany in the early 1930s—to Florida a few years after Israel won its independence. “I think it had something to do with the Histadrut”—the labor unions—“because my grandfather was a builder and didn’t want to be told where he could build,” said Dermer. “And it was the tkufat hatzena, the Austerity Years.”
The Rosenthal family chose Florida, Dermer said, because the weather was good and the red-brick building materials were similar to the Jerusalem stone his grandfather, Joseph, was familiar with. Joseph died when Dermer was a baby, and a few years later, his grandmother, Rivka, moved back to Israel. The family would visit, but all Dermer seemed to take away from the trip was a fear of desert vermin. “My mother tells me I would talk about how big the ants were,” he said. “I guess I was very small.” He says he can’t recall talking much about Zionism growing up. “I don’t remember intense discussions about Israel in my home,” Dermer said. “It was muvan ma’alav, self evident, that you were supportive of Israel.”
In 1984, two weeks before Dermer’s bar mitzvah, his father, Jay, died of a heart attack, at 54. He was buried in New York at Mt. Hebron Cemetery. Dermer, who went to a Jewish day school, reacted by becoming more invested in his Jewish identity—a posture he maintained even once he arrived at Penn, where he helped found the Jewish Heritage Program, an organization devoted to deepening college students’ Jewish attachments that is partly underwritten by Michael Steinhardt, the Jewish philanthropist and hedge fund manager, who graduated from Wharton.
It quickly became clear to Dermer’s instructors that that he wasn’t going to be joining his friends at Goldman Sachs or Salomon Brothers. “I never saw that he had that much interest in finance,” said Luntz, who taught Dermer at Penn. “And it wasn’t politics, it was policy that he was interested in.” Dermer was interested in something else, too. “He likes to win,” Luntz added—so much so that he committed himself to arguing a convincing case when Luntz assigned him to defend the view, in a classroom debate, that Israel should be condemned for its treatment of the Palestinians.
After graduation, in 1993, Dermer headed to Washington with the intention of finding a job at a think tank. That September, when Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat had their historic handshake on the White House’s South Lawn, Dermer was working for Luntz, helping to survey baby boomers about their savings habits for Merrill Lynch. The think tank job never materialized, and Luntz encouraged him to apply for a Thouron scholarship to go to Oxford and study politics. “He was perfect for it,” Luntz said. “The committee likes the idea of a Yank at Oxford, and Ron is as American as they come.” In the run-up to the 1994 congressional midterms, Dermer worked with Luntz and Gingrich on the strategy that eventually became the Contract With America, but he left for England before the election to start coursework for a second bachelor’s degree in politics, philosophy, and economics.
In the spring of 1995, Luntz came up with a new idea: to go work for Sharansky, who was then trying to launch an immigrants’ party, which came to be called Yisrael B’Aliyah, Israel for Immigration. Richard Perle had introduced Luntz and Sharansky, and Luntz immediately called Dermer, who happened to be in Israel for Passover, to introduce him to Sharansky. “I didn’t know him, I hadn’t read his book, and my first instinct was not to work for him,” said Dermer. “Then I went to meet him and changed my mind in about 10 minutes.” The feeling was mutual: Not long after they met, Sharansky recalled, he took Dermer to the municipal swimming pool in the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem to swim with his young daughters. “He was like a giant, holding my two girls,” Sharansky said. “And I thought, this is how an American should look, like a giant.”
Over the next year, Dermer spent the generous breaks between Oxford terms in Israel helping Sharansky prepare for the 1996 Knesset elections. The day of the vote, Dermer was in Oxford taking a final exam. “I think it was comparative government, if you can believe it,” Dermer recalled. Soon after, he returned to Israel, and by 1997, he had begun the process of becoming an Israeli citizen. “He was working for the Yisrael B’Aliyah party when he made aliyah—the party of immigrants even attracted an American,” Sharansky told me triumphantly.
Dermer’s friends and family were surprised. “I never thought when I connected him to Sharansky that it would eventually lead to him choosing Israel over America,” said Luntz. Dermer said his older brother, David—who by then had become a Miami Beach city commissioner—tried to talk him out of his decision. “He thought moving was basically cutting off all these other opportunities I could have had in the States,” Dermer said. “But eventually you have to choose when faced with the fork in the road, and I understood that.” The next summer, Dermer cemented his decision by marrying Adi Blumberg, an artist raised in the Old City of Jerusalem whose father, David, was at the time chairman of the Bank of Jerusalem. The wedding was presided over by the rabbinic scholar Adin Steinsaltz.
The timing was propitious for the young consultant. In early 1999, Netanyahu’s government collapsed, largely over the particulars of the post-Oslo negotiations. The resulting prime ministerial election was, in essence, Israel’s first totally American campaign. Netanyahu brought back his 1996 campaign strategist, Arthur Finkelstein, a veteran Republican consultant who had also worked for the Estee Lauder tycoon Ronald Lauder, a confidant of Netanyahu’s. Labor’s Ehud Barak countered by bringing on the Clinton war room commandants James Carville and Stan Greenberg. Dermer, still only 28, remained in his role as Sharansky’s strategist, focusing on the Knesset elections, where Israel B’Aliyah was faced with a challenge from an upstart Russian named Avigdor Lieberman.
By that time, Dermer was known as the country’s leading expert on the Russian vote, and during the campaign, Sharansky offered his protégé’s expertise to Netanyahu’s faltering leadership campaign. According to Sharansky, Netanyahu was unnerved by the hard news Dermer delivered. “Bibi calls me and says, this guy [Dermer] really hates me,” Sharansky said. “But the next time they met they fell in love.”
The two men had what Dermer described as their first real meeting in the early summer of 2000. By this time, everything was different. Netanyahu had been pushed out of the Aquarium by a landslide vote for Barak, while Dermer was recently widowed. “We hit it off right away,” Dermer said. “In terms of security policy, diplomatic policy, economic policy, I share his views—there are very few things we don’t see eye to eye on.” Netanyahu, who had handed over the leadership of Likud to Ariel Sharon in the wake of his defeat, was already thinking of making a comeback, and he found a willing partner. “I said to him,” Dermer recalled, “ ‘I made multiple visits to Israel before you were prime minister. I lived in Israel while you were prime minister. And I’ve lived in Israel after you were prime minister. And with your predecessor and successor, it was chaos in the country and quiet in the Prime Minister’s Office. And when you were prime minister, it was chaos in the Prime Minister’s Office and quiet in the country.’ I said I was interested in quiet in the country.”
But the outbreak of the Second Intifada, in the fall of 2000, precluded quiet anywhere. Barak resigned, triggering a prime ministerial election between him and Sharon, which Netanyahu sat out, with Dermer quietly advising him. “Bibi found that he was fond of him, and he became almost dependent on his opinions,” said Sharansky of Dermer. Meantime, Dermer found a new public role for himself when Tom Rose hired him to write a weekly column for the Jerusalem Post. “If you write for Netanyahu and Sharansky, you write the speeches of the greatest Jewish orators in the modern day, and it’s safe to assume you’ll be a good op-ed columnist.”
Dermer’s column, “The Numbers Game,” debuted in January 2001. The paper’s editor at the time, Jeff Barak, recalls Dermer zipping up to the Post’s decrepit office in Romema, at the far western edge of the city, on his Honda scooter to drop off his weekly submissions. “He was very young, but you could already see this was a guy with great potential,” Barak said.
The early columns focused narrowly on polls and election results, but by March, Dermer had found his groove, writing increasingly assertive essays on Israel’s civic troubles that cited everyone from Machiavelli and Isaiah Berlin to Asher Ginsberg, the original proponent of cultural Zionism, who wrote under the pen name Ahad Ha’am. These columns anticipate current political issues, and they provide a useful guide to Dermer’s preoccupations and convictions.
Throughout the columns, Palestinian leaders—not just Arafat, but Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti—are branded not just as terrorists but as tyrants bent on fomenting the Intifada to consolidate power in a “corrupt junta.” (Barghouti is currently jailed in an Israeli prison and is seen by some Palestinians as a Nelson Mandela figure.) The willingness of the Left to cooperate with Arafat, Dermer argued in a March 2001 column, revealed its leaders to be lily-livered sellouts, willing to risk Israel’s security and its future for the vague hope of peace:
Slowly but surely, a mounting conviction that time is no longer on our side is sapping our national will. The current peace process has done much to contribute to our national “malaise.” Despite the claims of many of its most vocal supporters, the path that led our leaders to sign the Oslo accords was not marked by hope. In fact, it was beset by fear and anxiety.
He revisited the same idea in January, taking aim at the novelist David Grossman, who Dermer defined as a “self-hater”—language that resurfaced soon after Netanyahu took office in 2009, when Ha’aretz reporter Barak Ravid wrote that the prime minister had called Rahm Emanuel a self-hating Jew:
The Zionist self-haters are different than the anti-Zionists in that the former are as firm in their commitment to a Jewish State as they are to an Arab one. Since they have deluded themselves into believing that the Arab world has accommodated itself to the existence of Israel, to them the core of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict has already been resolved. What is necessary to end the current violence is only to expunge the Israeli sin of “occupation,” a sin that has badly stained their blanched humanitarian consciences. Indeed, they see resistance to the “occupation” as legitimate and believe that returning to the pre-1967 lines will end the conflict and secure Israel’s future.
In the March column, Dermer laid out what, in light of the Arab Spring, turns out to be a prescient vision of the Arab historical dialectic. And he made the case for delaying a peace deal as long as possible:
The truth is that the day is not far off when the Arabs will be free enough to see with their own eyes the path of lies, poverty, and destruction on which they have been led for decades. The truth is that by showing weakness today, we are breathing life into the despotic regimes that rule them and that when the Arabs are free enough to truly govern themselves, they will be free enough to forge a genuine peace with us. If we remain convinced that time is working against us, we will not withstand our adversaries for long. But if we begin to realize that each passing year leaves us stronger and our enemies weaker, then we will restore our faith in ourselves and recapture the internal fortitude that has long been the trademark of our people.
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, Dermer went to New York on his way to Florida, where he helped his brother David eke out an upset victory for the Miami Beach mayoral seat their father had once occupied—a victory that was won with a last-minute assist from Gov. Jeb Bush. In the Jerusalem Post, Dermer wrote that what struck him back in his native country was not renewed faith or unity, but a new and characteristically Israeli suspicion of strangers—specifically, Arab strangers—as potential enemies. “The prevailing mood I detected,” he wrote, “was best expressed not by the president’s call for Americans to pray in their ‘churches, synagogues and mosques’ but by the refusal of commuters on a Minneapolis flight to fly until three Arab passengers were removed from the plane.” It was a twist on that famous Le Monde headline—“We Are All Americans.” Finally, it seemed to Dermer, we were all Israelis.
That idea runs through the book Dermer eventually wrote with Sharansky, The Case for Democracy, which casts the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinian leadership as a front in the global struggle between free societies and tyrannical ones. The book draws a distinction between free societies and “fear societies”—a turn of phrase Sharansky credited to Dermer—and, at the end, lists Arab dissidents who deserved support from the West in their efforts to move their countries toward freedom. “He took my Dostoevsky language and turned it into American English,” Sharansky told me. The book came out in November 2004 to rave reviews from George W. Bush, who invited the authors to the Oval Office a few days after the presidential election. Bush, in a January 2005 interview with C-SPAN, said he recognized the Dermer name right away: “I knew Mayor Dermer, because he happened to be a Democrat mayor supporting my candidacy for the presidency, and so I kind of had the full-circle view.”
That spring, nearly a decade after arriving in Israel, Dermer was dispatched to Washington in his first official government capacity, as the Israeli Embassy’s minister for economic affairs, under the auspices of Netanyahu, who was then serving as minister of finance under Ariel Sharon. Taking the job required Dermer, at 33, to give up his American citizenship. By then he had remarried—his wife, Rhoda, is a Yale-trained lawyer—and become a father. In a column for the New York Sun, Dermer offered a public goodbye: “I will never renounce America or its people. As a faithful son of America, I will never betray its ideals. In serving the State of Israel and in working to secure our common future, I will champion those ideals all of my life. May God forever bless America.”
When Netanyahu finally returned to the Aquarium in March 2009, it was thanks to lessons Dermer learned from Barack Obama. Originally given a two-year contract in Washington, Dermer wound up staying three years. (Though only after a public firestorm erupted over the initial decision by a Kadima minister not to grant him an extension, reportedly because of Dermer’s close ties to Netanyahu.) The extra time in the United States gave Dermer the chance to watch how Obama’s team managed to mobilize millions of new or previously disaffected voters with a message of change—a strategy Dermer promptly replicated for Netanyahu when snap elections were called in Israel that winter.
Dermer oversaw the development of a campaign website that closely mimicked Obama’s and then hired two media consultants fresh off the Obama campaign, Bill Knapp and Josh Isay (who also worked for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and described himself earlier this year as a Koch liberal). “We wanted to learn from the best,” Dermer told the Associated Press.
The Likud-led coalition that Netanyahu cobbled together, after weeks of horse-trading, is, in Dermer’s own estimation, the most right-of-center government in Israel’s history—at least on paper. “To say Israel simply went to the right is to not understand what has happened,” Dermer said when we met. “Netanyahu has essentially moved the Likud to the center. He says peace is possible, but you have to have security arrangements that are ironclad.”
To underscore that idea, Dermer and others in Netanyahu’s circle, including Dore Gold, have lately taken to pointing to the final speech Rabin gave to the Knesset before his assassination. In it, Rabin laid out his vision for autonomous Palestinian rule. “We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority,” Rabin declared. “The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”
In our conversation, Dermer suggested I read the speech immediately after reminding me of Netanyahu’s 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University, in which the prime minister publicly committed to a two-state solution—a statement Dermer described to reporters at the time as evidence that his boss had crossed a personal Rubicon. In our meeting, Dermer argued that the problem now lay with the refusal of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Arab leaders to make the equivalent leap and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “What we’re seeing is the Palestinians not moving an inch from their original position in 15 years,” Dermer said. “The prime minister today is to the left of Rabin. I don’t know if that’s going to help him in the Likud too much but he’s to the left of where Rabin was when Rabin made that speech.”
But then, a few minutes later, Dermer reached for the kind of uncompromising line that seems to inflame his counterparts in Washington. “It’s not a territorial conflict,” he told me. “The question is what kinds of risks will Israel confront before people get that it’s not a territorial conflict. We left Lebanon, we left Gaza, and now the world says, ‘Walk back to 1967 lines and you’ll have peace.’ And we know this is not the case. So sometimes you have to take a stand.” A few minutes later, he elaborated on the point: “There are certain people in the United States, in the Jewish community, who are frustrated. But with all due respect, the most frustrated people with not being able to find a peace settlement with the Palestinians are the Israelis themselves. People say, ‘We’re very frustrated.’ I get this from Europeans all the time. We’re very frustrated. Well, great. I’m glad you’re frustrated. But we get 12,000 rockets landing on us, and if we make a stupid decision we pay the price.”
Over the past year, Dermer has assumed an increasingly critical, albeit behind-the-scenes, role alongside longtime adviser Yitzhak Molcho, a lawyer who is Netanyahu’s chief peace negotiator. He serves as a key bridge to Washington—not just to the Obama Administration, but to the network of think-tank analysts and former government officials who collectively determine the conventional wisdom on U.S. policy toward Israel. Many of those people have not been shy about expressing their growing disdain for Netanyahu’s, and by extension, Dermer’s tactics, especially since May, when the prime minister and the president met for an uncomfortable joint Oval Office session in which Netanyahu railed against Obama’s reference to 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations.
As New York’s John Heilemann wrote earlier this week, there is a view, which dates back to the late 1990s, that Netanyahu is simply a “small-minded politician” beholden to his coalition. Over the summer, as the Obama team seemed to run increasingly short on patience, there was a corollary view articulated by left-leaning Israelis as well as American Jews on both sides of the aisle, that perhaps Dermer wasn’t getting a clear read on the American mood from his perch in Givat Ram. “It doesn’t help that they’re talking to the echo chamber here,” said the person who has been in multiple meetings with Dermer in Washington and Jerusalem. “They have this arrogance that they don’t need Michael Oren to tell us what the situation is, they don’t need the embassy, they don’t need experts in American politics because they are American.”
And yet, here we are: The Obama Administration is standing steadfastly by Israel’s side, promising to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations should it come up for a vote in the Security Council. In the wake of the Arab Spring, and with the future course of negotiations potentially in the balance, the speech that Dermer is preparing Netanyahu to give at the United Nations this week will cement the adviser’s influence on history.
Whether that influence will ultimately be beneficial for the State of Israel, the United States, or the Jewish people remains to be seen. While some American Jews—Tom Friedman, Roger Cohen and members of the New York Times editorial board—see Dermer’s strategy as a long-term disaster, it is clearly succeeding, at least in the short term. Despite repeatedly provoking diplomatic embarrassments for the Obama Administration, Netanyahu has paid no price in terms of the benefits the U.S. government is willing to extend, and has not, aside from the temporary settlement freeze, had to give up any ground, figurative or literal. Which suits Dermer, an occasional chess player, just fine. “Ron is a tough pragmatist, and pragmatists like concrete details,” observed one person close to Netanyahu’s circle. “Right now, Bibi and his team can’t see how the chess board will look in a few moves. They have no visibility. So, their best move is to delay.”
Across the West Bank, rallies are planned to support the Palestinian bid for statehood. Israelis fear what will happen if they turn violent.