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Israel's D.C. Envoy Refuses to Meet With Liberal Jewish Groups

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
December 2018

Since taking his post as Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. in 2013, Ron Dermer "has refused to meet with J Street, a liberal Middle East advocacy group," reports The Times of Israel (Oct. 11, 2018). "He has likewise not engaged with other left-leaning Jewish groups often critical of the Netanyahu government."  
Liberal Jewish groups report that the ambassador's unwillingness to meet with them is further evidence of the splintering relations between Israel and the American Jewish community and the growing partisan divide over Israel in the U.S.  
Jessica Rosenblum, J Street's senior Vice President, said, "He may deeply disagree with our views, but they are representative of the majority of American Jews on Israel and a viable solution to the conflict. And it's not just a majority of American Jews but a growing majority."  
According to The Times of Israel, "The ambassador has not met with other leading left-wing Jewish groups, including the New Israel Fund or Americans for Peace Now, despite repeated requests. Ambassador Dermer declined to comment. Dermer's predecessor, Michael Oren, who held the post from 2009 to 2013, regularly met with J Street and other progressive Jewish organizations. The report notes that. "..a viewpoint widely held by liberal Jews is that Dermer came to his job with a partisan outlook. He arranged, behind the Obama administration's back, for Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress to lambast the administration's negotiations with Tehran. ..A longtime Jewish activist in Washington says that, 'Dermer doesn't play by diplomatic rules, he doesn't come from that background, he doesn't think like a diplomat . He thinks like a Republican operative. His job is to ensure that the Republicans win and that the Democrats are relatively powerless...".  
Aaron David Miller, who has worked on the Middle East for both Republican and Democratic administrations, notes that, "You have a situation here almost unlike any I've ever seen. You have an Israeli prime minister not terribly concerned about the diversity and complexity of American Jews. His priority is focusing on one guy---Donald Trump---and three other constituencies ---evangelical Christians, conservative Republicans, American Jews and Jewish organizations that adopt either a supportive or not directly critical posture on what the Israelis are actually doing. Mr. Trump, incidentally, is also interested in catering to these three constituencies."  
Miller argues that Netanyahu's apparent strategy of investing in one side of America's political spectrum will eventually backfire. While Republicans are in power now, Democrats will gain the White House again one day. When that day comes, Miller continued, there will be an edict from Democratic constituencies to approach Israel in ways Netanyahu and Dermer would likely not find amenable to their stances.  
Miller declares: "It erodes the central adhesive which has accounted for the durability of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, it is undermining the bipartisanship element." •

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