Yesterday, the Washington Post and former Obama adviser and Middle East envoy Dennis Ross urged Barack Obama to provide a serious response to the “strong case” presented by Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress against the administration’s Iran deal. The left-leaning Israeli paper Ha’aretz reports that the “serious response” has been to treat Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer as an unwelcome guest to the party. Dermer created the embarrassment of Barack Obama this week, as Ha’aretz reports the White House’s thinking, and Dermer has to go if Netanyahu wants to do business over the next two years:
“We are not the ones who created this crisis,” said a senior administration official. “President Obama has another two years in office and we wish to go back to a reality where you can work together despite the differences. The prime minister of Israel is the one who needs to find a way to fix this.”
Although White House officials don’t say so explicitly, they seem to imply that one way to repair the relations between Netanyahu and Obama would be to replace Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer. The latter is seen as an instigator who concocted Netanyahu’s Congress speech behind Obama’s back with John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.
In his speech to AIPAC, Netanyahu praised Dermer for standing firm and taking the heat in Washington. If Netanyahu wins the election and continues to back Dermer, the ambassador will find himself isolated in the American capital. As long as Obama is in the White House, nobody in the administration will work with him.
Ha’aretz reporter Barak Ravid reports this in a matter-of-fact manner, which misses the irony in this passage:
Over the past six years, there have been more than a few ups and downs in the Netanyahu-Obama relationship – tensions, crises, public recriminations and wrangling before the cameras. Senior U.S. officials say that to date, ongoing relations between the two countries continue to function despite these strains. But this time, they stressed, there was the feeling that Netanyahu was using these differences – in fact, highlighting and intensifying them – for his own political needs.
“Historians can probably find examples of times when there were similar crises in the U.S.-Israel relations in the past,” said a senior U.S. official. “In the last six years we had big differences over the peace process and on other issues, but the situation now is extremely difficult and feels more politically charged than ever before.”
Ahem. When Hamas opened fire on Israel last summer, which country went to Qatar to legitimize the terrorist group in negotiations in order to push Israel into recognizing them? That came just after the Bowe Bergdahl swap sent five high-ranking Taliban commanders to Doha, and the Obama administration needed to show that Qatar could be trusted, and to allow Qatar to curry favor in the region. It took Egypt Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to bigfoot John Kerry out of that particular folly.
Don’t think for a moment that the Obama administration hasn’t been playing politics with Iran all along, too. Which country in this equation has a foreign-policy track record so poor that it has desperately glommed onto the idea of a rapprochement with the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world? For this White House to accuse another government, especially an ally as beleaguered as Israel, of playing politics with foreign policy and alliances is the height of hypocrisy. Obama’s entire policy in the region has been predicated on playing footsie with Iran since he first took office, either in a sham “containment” relationship or a fully endorsed policy of regional hegemony.
As for Dermer, he’s clearly not the problem. However, as one former US ambassador to Israel says, ambassadors are “an expendable lot,” and Netanyahu may need to find another envoy if he wins another term as Prime Minister. That won’t change the trajectory of this administration’s folly on Iran, though, nor the chronic ineptitude of Obama’s State Department on Israel and the region.
Update on the Update below: That story was from last year, actually, as Gabriel Malor pointed out later on Twitter. We both missed that. I’ve changed the headline to remove the red headline and wanted to post this above the link. My apologies for the confusion, even though it’s still a pretty good reminder of the threat Iran poses to Israel and the region.
Update: Here’s a timely reminder that Netanyahu accurately warned that Iranian support for terrorism was a direct threat to Israel (via Gabriel Malor):
The Israel Navy intercepted a ship early on Wednesday that Iran was using to smuggle dozens of long-range rockets to Gaza.
The IDF’s “Operation Discovery” took place in the Red Sea, 1,500 kilometers away from Israel and some 160 kilometers from Port Sudan. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz oversaw the raid.
Missile ships and navy commandos from the Flotilla 13 unit, backed by the air force, raided the Klos-C cargo ship, which was carrying Syrian- manufactured M-302 rockets.
The ship’s crew is in Israeli custody, and the navy is towing the vessel to Eilat, where it is expected to arrive in the coming days.
The rockets originated in Syria, according to Military Intelligence assessments. Iran reportedly flew the rockets from Syria to an Iranian airfield, trucked them to the seaport of Bander Abbas, and shipped them to Iraq, where they were hidden in cement sacks. The ship then set sail for Port Sudan, near the Sudanese-Eritrean border, on a journey that was expected to last some 10 days.
Hey, but I’m sure the Tehran mullahcracy will be totally trustworthy with those thousands of uranium centrifuges!