Ron Dermer: Netanyahu's Strategist, Trusted Advisor, and Link to the Joe Biden Administration

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Ron Dermer may be less famous among his peers, but his roles and tasks are crucial for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been waging a devastating onslaught on Gaza since October 7, 2023.

He is the Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, playing a significant role in communication during the onslaught, engaging with the Joe Biden administration, securing its support, and pushing it to overcome common points of contention.

Key Connector

Dermer (53) is one of five members of the War Cabinet under Netanyahu's presidency, serving as the primary channel of communication between “Israel” and the Joe Biden administration. His role has become more prominent as the United States faces what could be its most challenging period in its relationship with “Israel” in many years.

This period requires balancing support for the Israeli Occupation’s war on Hamas with pressure to stop the bombardment of Gaza for humanitarian relief efforts, as reported by The New York Times on November 7, 2023.

The newspaper noted that Dermer has the ability to engage with the American side and has been a constructive presence in many meetings and phone calls.

Dermer's role has been under scrutiny, given his history of clashes with past U.S. administrations. While in Washington, he clashed with former President Barack Obama over the Iran nuclear deal, strongly opposed by “Israel,” and the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Like Netanyahu, Dermer does not support the two-state solution, which President Joe Biden recently said is critical to “Israel” and the Palestinians’ future after the war.

Dermer leans towards Republicans, who appear to offer greater support for Netanyahu and criticize the Joe Biden administration, a stance Dermer reinforced during his tenure as ambassador between 2013 and 2021, building relationships with them.

Dermer had warmer ties with former President Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, did not object to settlements, proposed Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank, and moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem (al-Quds), a long-standing Israeli request.

Dermer's current roles in the War Cabinet have drawn attention to his past stances and disputes with U.S. administrations.

During his time in Washington, Dermer worked closely with Republicans to craft a speech for Netanyahu before a joint session of Congress in 2015, describing Obama's proposed nuclear deal as a terrible deal.

Dermer's involvement was also crucial in normalizing relations between “Israel” and both the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 during Trump's era.

Michael Oren, Dermer’s predecessor, described him as the man with all the authority, indicating that he has full power to act on behalf of his government abroad.

Background

Ron was born in Miami Beach, Florida, in 1971, the youngest son of Jay Dermer, a New York lawyer who was elected mayor of the city in 1967, and Yaffa Rosenthal, who was born in Palestine and moved to the United States with her parents.

Ron attended a Jewish day school in the area and earned a bachelor's degree. He later earned a PhD in Finance and Management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. In the same year, he graduated from the University of Oxford with a master's degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. In 1996, he moved to “Israel” and began the process of becoming an Israeli citizen.

Dermer began writing a column for the English-language Jerusalem Post for three years.

In August 1998, he married Israeli artist Adi Blumberg, who died in 2000. He later married Rhoda Pagano, and they have five children, living in occupied Jerusalem.

During the 1999 Israeli elections, Dermer worked as an advisor to right-wing politician and former minister, Natan Sharansky.

From January 2001, Dermer wrote a column called The Numbers Game for the English-language Jerusalem Post for three years.

In 2004, he co-authored a book with Sharansky titled The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, referring to what Sharansky called the right of Jews to establish a state on Palestinian land.

In 2005, Dermer was appointed by then-Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli Occupation’s economic envoy to the United States, a position that required him to renounce his American citizenship.

After returning to “Israel” in 2008, Dermer became a close political advisor to Netanyahu, who was elected Prime Minister in 2009.

In March 2013, Dermer left Netanyahu's office after four years in the mentioned position.

On July 9, 2013, Netanyahu announced that Dermer would succeed Michael Oren as Israeli Occupation’s ambassador to the United States.

When Netanyahu issued the appointment of Dermer as ambassador to Washington, Obama's aides, who viewed Dermer as a right-wing political activist rather than a diplomat, debated whether the White House should reject or accept his credentials, but later abandoned the idea.

Indeed, on December 3, 2013, Dermer officially presented his credentials to Obama.

He wrote in the official White House guestbook, “I feel proud and honored to serve as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. America is a country to which the Jewish people owe so much and to which I, as a son of America, am so personally indebted. I look forward to working with you and your administration to make the bonds between Israel and America stronger than ever.”

In March 2017, Netanyahu's government approved an extension of Dermer's term for an additional year, citing the need for continuity with the stability of the former President Donald Trump's administration in Washington.

Although he hoped to return to “Israel,” Netanyahu's government agreed to extend Dermer's term for another year in June 2018, and he remained in this position until 2021.

He was appointed Minister of Strategic Affairs in the thirty-seventh government after the 2022 elections.

Positions and Loyalties

During the onslaught on Gaza, Dermer made controversial statements regarding Egypt, the famine in the besieged enclave, and the "military operation" in Rafah.

Dermer said on May 22 that the problem in Gaza is that Egypt did not allow its residents to enter its territory, referring to its refusal to accept their displacement plan.

He added that Egypt prevents the entry of two thousand trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza, because it has a political issue regarding the Rafah crossing, according to him.

Before the start of the ground offensive on Rafah in May, Dermer said in March 2024 that the Israeli army will seize the city and defeat Hamas even if the whole world was against “Israel,” including the United States.

“It will happen even if Israel is forced to fight alone. Even if the entire world turns on Israel, including the United States, we’re going to fight until the battle’s won.”

On April 1, 2024, Dermer lost his temper after U.S. officials told him during a virtual meeting that the Israeli plan to invade Rafah was unrealistic, according to NBC, quoting officials in the Joe Biden administration and a former informed U.S. official.

The virtual meeting was held to discuss the plan to invade Rafah, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and more than seven other senior officials from the White House and the U.S. Departments of State and Defense participating from the American side.

On the Israeli side, Dermer and National Security Council head Tzahi Hanegbi participated.

The American officials said that Washington rejected during the meeting the Israeli plan to evacuate 1.4 million Palestinian civilians from Rafah.

After that, Dermer began shouting and waving his arms during his defense of the plan, and the American officials in the meeting maintained their composure and did not respond in kind.

Officials in Joe Biden's administration indicated that it had long been customary for Dermer to be "energetic" during meetings with American officials, describing the meeting as no more controversial than recent other discussions between the two governments.

Dermer thus adopts the same approach as Netanyahu, who refused to abandon the invasion of Rafah and promised "complete victory," unlike other members of the War Cabinet who prioritize completing a prisoner exchange deal.

The New York Times said that if Dermer's loyalty is to “Israel,” his personal loyalty is to Netanyahu.

His friends describe this loyalty as “unwavering” to the point that he once blamed himself for a scandal that affected Netanyahu in 2018.

At that time, Dermer said he failed to convey warnings to the Prime Minister about the "sexual misconduct" of his spokesman, David Keyes, who resigned after the allegations became public.

In another issue related to the onslaught, Dermer denied at the end of May during a television interview, the existence of any famine or genocide in the Gaza Strip, saying that these are false and baseless allegations, citing Joe Biden's support for the onslaught without hesitation.

To push forward the normalization file, Dermer indicated in August 2023 that “Israel” might be open to the possibility of accepting Saudi Arabia's request to build a civilian nuclear power plant as part of an agreement to launch relations through U.S. mediation.

At that time, Dermer emphasized the distinction between seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and seeking nuclear weapons.

However, Dermer said during an interview with PBS, “We’re not going to agree to any nuclear weapons program with any of our neighbors.

“And the question will be, when it comes to the details of an agreement, what are the safeguards? And what happens if they take another path, if they take a path with the Chinese or something else? We have to think through that whole thing.”

But, he added, “let’s not underestimate the impact that an Israeli-Saudi peace agreement could have on the region and the world.” Such an accord would prompt “several other Arab countries, and Muslim countries” to follow, Dermer said, adding: “And I think it’s the ultimate game-changer.”