The Obama administration has been holding its tongue over Republicans inviting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without informing the White House so far, but it looks like that period of silence has more or less ended with a bang.
The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House.
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.
The official who made the comments to The New York Times would not be named, and the White House declined to comment. The remarks were the latest fallout after Mr. Dermer, without the White House’s knowledge, worked with House Speaker John A. Boehner to arrange the speech, which is scheduled for March.
If there is a head around here that’s going to roll, it’s going to be Ambassador Dermer’s.
Mr. Dermer, an American-born former Republican political operative who is so close to Mr. Netanyahu that he is often called “Bibi’s brain,” became Israel’s envoy to the United States in 2013. White House officials were at first wary that Mr. Dermer would politicize relations between Washington and Jerusalem, but over time cultivated a working relationship with him after concluding that there were advantages in his closeness to Mr. Netanyahu.
The last week has borne out their initial concerns.
Mr. Dermer relayed the invitation to Mr. Netanyahu from Mr. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, without notifying top officials in Washington or Jerusalem. American and Israeli officials said that Mr. Dermer, in the course of a lengthy meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry just before Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was announced, never mentioned it.
Let’s not forget that Dermer was one of Frank Luntz’s boys back in the GOP’s “Contract With America” days of Speaker Newt Gingrich. He’s a GOP operative through and through, and he decided that his loyalties to the Republican machine trumped all.
We’ll see how this shakes out, but the crosshairs are definitely on Dermer’s career right now should the White House decide to persona non grata his ass. That however would be a major escalation on our part.
It may very well be warranted.