- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ron Dermer isn’t backing down.

The high-profile Israeli ambassador to Washington, who has angered top officials in the Obama administration while energetically defending his boss, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, still thinks President Obama’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran is a bad idea.

The framework deal, which the U.S. and its allies hope to complete with Iran by next month, will make it easier for Iran to become a nuclear power, Mr. Dermer said in an address at the Heritage Foundation Thursday.

“Israel believes that this deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb. Iran won’t have to sneak in or break into the nuclear club; they will simply walk into the nuclear club,” the Israeli envoy said.

“It should be obvious to everyone that Iran is not just a problem for Israel,” he added, “and this deal will make the Middle East much more dangerous and less stable.”

He also argued that Tehran would not use the lifting of international sanctions as part of that deal to boost its economy or the quality of life for ordinary Iranians, but to fuel “foreign aggression” throughout the rest of the Middle East and parts of North Africa.

Mr. Dermer played a central role in arranging Mr. Netanyahu’s March address to a joint session of Congress slamming the Iranian negotiations. The speech, which was not cleared in advance with the White House, led to an open rift between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, who did not meet during the Israeli leader’s Washington visit.

But Mr. Netanyahu triumphed in Israel’s April elections, and Mr. Dermer, considered one of the prime minister’s closest advisers, remains on the job.

Mr. Dermer insisted Thursday that his government supports diplomacy as the best way to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and expressed optimism that the clashes over Iran would not undermine the deeper alliance between the U.S. and Israel.

“Israel has the most to lose by a nuclear-armed Iran and the most to lose in military confrontation with Iran,” he said. “Right now Iranian ICBMs don’t reach New York and Washington. The best outcome for Israel is a diplomatic resolution to this problem.”

In his remarks at the Heritage event, which was co-sponsored by the Jesse Helms Center, Mr. Dermer also remained optimistic that the fundamental U.S.-Israeli bond remains strong despite the differences over Iran.

“Policy differences between our two governments have never been decisive in determining the trajectory of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” said Mr. Dermer, claiming that the countries’ “shared vision” was far more important. “It is imperative that we have a reliable ally that we can trust, who shares our goals and values.”

“I don’t agree the [Obama] administration is on the other side of the moral divide” from Israel, Mr. Dermer told the Heritage audience.

The best way forward, as Mr. Dermer sees it, is to employ “crippling sanctions” to force deeper concessions from Iran, while including regional countries like Israel and the Arab states in the talks.

“Israel is not there, and the Arab states are not there, and both groups have a similar view,” he said. “When Israelis and Arabs are on the same page, people should pay attention.”

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