Netanyahu Names Key Adviser as Ambassador to U.S.

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JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday named one of his closest advisers, Ron Dermer, to be Israel's next ambassador to the United States, a long-anticipated pick that had raised some concern in Washington because of Mr. Dermer's ties to Republicans.

Mr. Dermer, 42, a neoconservative who once worked for Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant, was seen by some as questioning President Obama's commitment to Israel during his first term, and of supporting Mr. Obama's Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in last fall's presidential election. But since November, he has worked to repair his reputation in Washington and has won over many in the White House with the critical roles he played in negotiating a cease-fire after Israel's eight-day operation in the Gaza Strip, reconciling relations between Turkey and Israel and planning Mr. Obama's much-heralded March visit to Israel.

Now, several people close to the Obama administration said, any suspicions about Mr. Dermer's political leanings are outweighed by the benefit of having an ambassador in Mr. Netanyahu's inner circle. He is expected to start the job in the fall, replacing Michael B. Oren, the outspoken and telegenic New Jersey-born historian who has served in Washington for four years.

"If you have someone you know is well connected to the prime minister it means you can always use that channel, no matter how sensitive the message is, and understand it's going to be communicated the way you want it," noted Dennis B. Ross, a former Middle East envoy who is now counselor to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "It reduces the prospect of surprise, it reduces the prospect of misunderstanding -- that's something that's highly desired."

Mr. Dermer was raised in Miami Beach, where his father and brother both served as mayor. He likes to point out that they were Democrats, though the family also supported President George W. Bush and his brother Jeb Bush, the Florida governor, both Republicans. He has a bachelor's degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University.

After immigrating to Israel in 1997, Mr. Dermer co-authored a book with Natan Sharansky, the Soviet dissident turned Israeli leader. In 2005, he renounced his American citizenship to take a job in the Israeli Embassy in Washington. When Mr. Netanyahu returned as premier in 2009, Mr. Dermer became his chief speechwriter and strategist, summoned frequently -- and at all hours -- for consultations and covert assignments on politics and foreign policy. He has often expressed skepticism about whether Palestinians truly want a state of their own and about their reliability as a peace partner.

A 2011 profile in Tablet, an online magazine, was titled "Bibi's Brain," using Mr. Netanyahu's nickname, and said Mr. Dermer "comes across as equal parts George Stephanopoulos and Karl Rove." In appointing him Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement that Mr. Dermer "has all the qualities necessary to successfully fill this important post."

Mr. Dermer, a yarmulke-wearing modern Orthodox Jew, and his wife, Rhoda, a Yale-educated lawyer, have four sons and a daughter born last month. He did not respond to requests for interviews.

Abraham H. Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, said American Jewish leaders and Washington politicians alike would welcome Mr. Dermer's appointment because his "life epitomizes the relationship between Israel and America," and "most importantly, he's got the ear and trust of the prime minister."

"The issue of whether or not he would be persona non grata, I think, has dissipated," Mr. Foxman said. "It's important that whoever sits in that seat has a close working relationship with the prime minister. You don't need vacuums in that relationship, because vacuums are mischievous."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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