After several months of rumors and false-starts, Ron Dermer, a Florida-born Jew and one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants, has been named Israel’s next ambassador to the United States. The appointment, first confirmed today by Israel’s Channel 1, comes on the heels of Ambassador Michael Oren’s announcement that he would be stepping down in the fall.
Dermer’s appointment is likely to draw raised eyebrows in some circles, given his close connections to Republican politicians, dating back to his work for Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz on the 1994 Contract with America. (For more on Dermer’s eventful political career, check out Tablet senior writer Allison Hoffman’s comprehensive profile of him.) Some have even accused him of being behind Netanyahu’s perceived campaign for Mitt Romney, though as regional experts like Michael Koplow have noted, the idea that Netanyahu sought to intervene in America’s elections doesn’t quite stand up to close scrutiny. (UPDATE: Jeffrey Goldberg reports that “Dermer was endorsed by [Secretary of State] Kerry and the State Department. White House acquiesced. But not happily.”)
And whatever one’s opinion of his politics, Dermer brings undeniable rhetorical skills to the table. Within Israeli political circles, he is known for his sharp wit, argumentative spirit and penchant for acerbic one-liners that make Israel’s case. He has been instrumental in the drafting of key speeches during Netanyahu’s premiership, most notably the Prime Minister’s May 2011 address to Congress. Later that year, he penned a sharp letter to the New York Times on Netanyahu’s behalf, refusing to provide them with an op-ed from the Prime Minister due to the paper’s alleged bias against Israel. “It would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel,” he wrote, offering a litany of such perceived instances from the paper’s editorial page.
Can Dermer adjust his hard-hitting style to the constraints of diplomacy? Does Netanyahu appointing such a close adviser to the ambassadorial post indicate a growing closeness in U.S.-Israel ties, or a desire to align with the Congressional GOP? We’ll soon find out.