Yesterday Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer announced that his holiday gift package would include many products from the illegal Israeli settlements. He tweeted: “This year I decided to send a gift for the holiday that would also help combat BDS.” His accompanying letter on the subject says that the gifts are all products of “Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights,” and that the package is in defiance of European efforts to label settlement goods, which Dermer says are part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
Notice that Dermer calls BDS the latest effort to “eliminate” Israel and says that the European Union is anti-Semitic for wanting to label settlement goods.
“What kind of country taunts the world with the fruits of its crimes?” Scott Roth wrote last night.
Dermer is flipping the bird at the Obama White House, which treats the settlement project as unhelpful, though it will never outright condemn it out of fear of alienating Israel’s many friends in Washington. John Kerry, the secretary of state, regards “the injustice of settlement building in the West Bank” as a major impediment to any peaceful resolution of the conflict.
This is not the first time that Dermer has flipped the bird at Obama. In fact, he’s done so again and again. It’s a wonder he still has credentials!
Last summer Ron Dermer went up to Capitol Hill to lobby the Congress against the president’s Iran Deal. ” Bolstering the lobbying drive is Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who has met with more than 60 lawmakers to persuade them to vote against the accord,” Newsweek reported.
The Washington Post said that the move angered lawmakers as an over-stepping.
“Having him come and try to influence the members of the Congress and lobby against what the president was working on set the tenor,” Cohen continued. “Netanyahu should not get himself involved in American politics in the future, and AIPAC played a stronger hand than they should have.”
Other congressional aides pointed out that Israel’s unprecedented direct lobbying efforts against the deal by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who once worked for GOP operative Frank Luntz, worsened AIPAC’s position by association.
Dermer worked American Jewish politicians in particular, because of their supposed allegiance to the Jewish state:
“There are a lot of people whose reaction to the Israeli ambassador’s lobbying was not a positive one,” said one Democratic aide to a Jewish lawmaker. “It wasn’t ever a harsh tone or bossy or threatening, but if you are looking at the group of Jewish Democrats, there could have been a better understanding of the nuanced approach those members were taking. Not ‘This is it, take it or leave it, and if you’re on the other side of it, you’re wrong.’ ”
Back in January, of course, Dermer helped arrange Netanyahu’s spectacular speech to a joint House and Senate in defiance of the White House on the Iran Deal. He thumbed his nose at the White House in a tweet then too:
Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, appeared to mock the White House on Sunday when he tweeted “Breaking Protocol, Choosing Sides: Go Patriots” just before the Super Bowl.
White House officials have accused House Speaker John Boehner of committing “a breach of protocol” in arranging for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress without first informing the Obama administration.
The opposition goes way back. TPM:
As it was Dermer who reportedly helped organize Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel in the heat of the 2012 campaign, one of the Netanyahu government’s many affronts to the Obama White House
Paul Pillar told TPM that manipulating the US discourse was just par for the course, and the White House was passive in the face of lobbying:
Politico Magazine reported in the days before Dermer became ambassador that the White House and congressional Democrats were already suspicious of him, alleging that he had been undermining the international negotiations with Iran by distributing negative talking points to Capitol Hill offices. According to the New York Times, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, among others, had initially resisted the appointment.
“The naming of Dermer is a statement that manipulation, with a hard-right twist, of American politics is not just something that arises from time to time in U.S.-Israeli relations but instead is the main aspect of the relationship,” Paul Pillar, a longtime CIA analyst, wrote in the National Interest. “It also is a statement by Netanyahu that he isn’t bothered if the relationship is seen that way.”
That’s the bottom line here. Dermer can do these things without any official rebuke because of the power of the lobby. The White House doesn’t want to alienate Israel’s many friends. As another former Israeli ambassador, Colette Avital, said at the Haaretz NIF conference last week:
[Netanyahu] is really doing what he wishes because he thinks that nobody is going to punish him, because he thinks for instance that in America at the end of the day any politician will need the support of the Jewish community, so there is no real pressure of America on Israel.
The potential to backfire is huge. Americans don’t like the illegal settlements. Even HuffingtonPost says that Dermer is “trolling” the White House. Many are saying that the move simply elevates BDS.
— Adele (@bruculino) December 23, 2015
— Billmon (@billmon1) December 23, 2015
Jim Clancy writes:
Israel @AmbDermer hands out war crimes trinkets as Christmas Gifts. #Apartheid #Occupation are NOT American values.
Dermer’s equation of BDS and the efforts to label settlement goods is something that maddens liberal Zionists because Dermer is erasing the Green Line. They oppose BDS but support the labeling of settlement goods as a means of achieving their holy grail, the two state solution along the Green Line. Matt Duss of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, for instance, has defended the boycott of settlement products:
In the United States, the most prominent examples of concrete boycott-and-divestment-related activism in the Israeli -Palestinian arena have fact been focused unambiguously not on Israel but on the settlements and the occupation. These developments are the product of frustration with the failure of diplomacy to bring an end to the occupation, and a desire to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution.
Duss and other supporters of a Jewish state complain that in going after the BDS movement, Israel supporters like Dermer and all his friends in Congress are also going after the boycott tool employed by advocates of the two-state-solution on only one side of the Green Line. For Dermer and for the BDS movement too, that tactic is a distraction; because the Green Line/two-state solution are widely seen as a charade (after 25 years of false promises), which has only produced “apartheid on steroids,” as the Nation put it; and so the conflict is increasingly polarized between advocates for apartheid and opponents of apartheid, and there is no middle ground politically.
Thanks to Annie Robbins for several contributions to this post.