WASHINGTON -- Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, who orchestrated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial speech to Congress, skipped National Security Advisor Susan Rice's address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday evening.
An Israeli official confirmed to The Huffington Post that Dermer did not attend, but said the ambassador's absence was for good reason. “In any other circumstance, he would have gone. But he was working with the Prime Minister on his speech,” the official said, referring to Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, which took place the following day.
The Israeli official declined to comment on whether Dermer was ever intending to attend the speech and on whether he informed Rice that he would not be present.
Dermer, a protege of well-known GOP consultant Frank Luntz, has been among Netanyahu's closest advisers for years. The press quickly noticed Dermer's fingerprints on the prime minister's speech, particularly the heavy use of alliteration.
"Goons in Gaza, lackeys in Lebanon" sounds like a Dermer line to me.
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) March 3, 2015
With the help of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Dermer helped arrange Netanyahu’s contentious speech before on the House floor on Tuesday. In what the White House called a breach of diplomatic protocol, Dermer neglected to get the Obama administration’s approval for the speech.
According to Israeli news sources, Dermer spent the last ten days in Israel, helping Netanyahu draft his speeches for the annual AIPAC conference and for Congress, rather than working in Washington to quell the diplomatic tensions between Israeli and American leaders that he had helped to foment.
Israeli critics noted that Dermer was effectively performing the duties of Netanyahu’s campaign adviser and speechwriter, while neglecting some of his key diplomatic responsibilities as the ambassador to the United States.
Dermer’s ambivalence toward improving relations with the Obama administration is neither surprising nor new. The ambassador, who has long retained close ties to the Republican Party, is credited with organizing Mitt Romney’s campaign trip to Israel when he was running against Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
In his controversial speech, Netanyahu described the administration’s current nuclear negotiations as a short-term solution that would “all but guarantee” Iran obtains nuclear weapons.
As a growing list of Democratic lawmakers announced that they would boycott the address, AIPAC officials worked behind the scenes to make sure as many Democrats as possible attended.
Some believe that Obama snubbed Netanyahu and conservative Israelis by sending Rice to the annual AIPAC conference shortly after she made remarks critical of Netanyahu. Last week, Rice appeared on "Charlie Rose," where she described Netanyahu’s much-hyped speech as “destructive” to U.S.-Israel relations.
Two days before Rice's address to AIPAC, archconservative Rabbi Shmuley Boteach ran a full-page ad in The New York Times, accusing Rice of having a “blind spot” on genocide, citing her positions on Rwanda and Israel.
AIPAC and other Israeli advocacy groups quickly distanced themselves from Boteach’s ad, and Rice's widely attended speech was met with a standing ovation. Dermer, however, was not among the cheering supporters.