President Obama’s latest “punishment” of Benjamin Netanyahu for agreeing to speak to a joint session of Congress in March was a Thursday hit piece in the progressives’ favorite media tool, The New York Times. This time, instead of targeting the Prime Minister, the administration used The Times to target Netanyahu’s closest adviser, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
Taking its off-the-record hits from a White House official who “would not be named,” the Times report took cheap-shots at both Dermer and Netanyahu while placing blame for the Bibi speech blind-siding of Obama squarely at the feet of Dermer.
The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States.
Echoing most liberal critics of the Netanyahu congressional visit, the Times piece ignores the fact that a nuclear Iran is not a political issue in Israel; it’s an existential threat. In fact, Netanyahu has been warning about Iranian nukes since he first took over as Likud Party leader in 1992. And considering the fact that Russia just sold long range missiles to Iran, the Obama Administration would be well-advised to see a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to the United States.
In the past Chief-of Staff Denis McDonough and Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, have accused Dermer of lobbying members of Congress against President Barack Obama’s positions; it is likely one of the two (or someone in their staffs) who is the Voldemort-like official who “would not be named.” Many suspect Rhodes was the voice behind the Bibi is “chickenshit” comment to Jeff Goldberg, and last week’s Bibi “Spit in the face”of the administration comment to Ha’aretz.
The Times goes on to suggest that Dermer’s role with Netanyahu is similar to what progressives suggested Dick Cheney’s role was with Bush #43, that Dermer is known as Bibi’s brain.
They pointed out that Dermer is a former GOP operative, which is true. In 1994, just out of college, Dermer took a job with his former professor and GOP pollster Frank Luntz and helped design the “Contract with America,” which Republicans rode to a House majority in that year’s midterms. The Time’s only purpose in raising the specter of Dermer’s former job was to discredit Bibi’s trip and the sanctions effort as being partisan, another falsehood perpetuated by the “Grey Lady,” as well as most of the liberal media.
On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee passed a bill imposing new sanctions on Iran by a vote of 18-4. If nothing changes, when the bill is brought to the Senate floor in late March it will have the 68 votes it needs for a veto-proof majority, 16 of those votes will be Democratic Senators. The Democratic 16 include the 10 who earlier this week sent a letter to Obama informing them of their support of additional sanctions (Menendez, Schumer, Blumenthal, Peters, Casey, Cardin, Coons, Manchin, Donnelly, Stabenow), the two not on the letter who supported the bill in Thursday’s committee vote (Tester, Heitkamp Warner), and three who cosponsored the same bill when it was proposed by the Senate in the previous Congress.
Ever since Dermer took over as ambassador, Democrats trying to protect their president have blamed him for the problems in U.S./Israeli relations. In Dec. 2013, only two months after he took office, POLITICO reported:
“Among the White House’s inner circle—Denis McDonough, Ben Rhodes—Dermer is a red flag,” says Barak Ravid, Haaretz’s political correspondent, referring respectively to the White House chief of staff and deputy national security adviser. “They see him as the guy who incited Congress and Jewish organizations against Obama.”
It’s a reputation that Dermer’s defenders say is unfair—it does not take into account missteps by Obama and his team, and understates Netanyahu’s determinative role in shaping relations with Washington. But it is a reputation that continues to dog Dermer nonetheless. When I asked about him, a Democratic source on the Hill who is close to Jewish groups blamed Dermer for distributing talking points on Iran, critical of the White House, to Republican members of Congress. Asked for evidence, the source said, “Who else?”
Dermer critics forget that during the tenure of the previous ambassador Michael Oren, this President’s relationship with Israel was just as bad as it is today.
The Times finishes its hit piece by quoting “neutral” experts to slam Dermer. One expert was Daniel C. Kurtzer, who worked on Middle East policy under Secretary of State James Baker in the administration of Bush #41. Baker led what some believe was the most anti-Israel foreign policy in history (until this one). The other expert was J-Street, the faux pro-Israel group formed by George Soros.
Dermer has a tough job. Faced with the most aggressively anti-Israel Administration since Kurtzer worked for Baker, he has had to be just as scrappy in the service of his country to prevent the ineffectual Obama administration from naively negotiating an agreement that will fail at preventing Iranian nuclear weapons.
As for the NY Times, it has fulfilled its usual role as “state-controlled” newspaper of the progressive movement, and the Obama Administration’s favorite mouthpiece for leaks.