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Reading Israel's New U.S. Ambassador

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Israel's new ambassadorJudging by the headlines—“Israel names Romney backer to be ambassador to Washington,” “Israel's next U.S. envoy: Right-wing neo-con with close ties to Bush family”—Ron Dermer’s greatest sin is that he didn’t support Barack Obama’s reelection. That’s silly.

Israeli prime ministers and American presidents have been trying to unseat each other since Dermer was in graduate school. In 1996, two Democratic political consultants served as liaisons between Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres and President Bill Clinton in their coordinated bid to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1999, Clinton dispatched three consultants—Robert Shrum, Stanley Greenberg and James Carville—to make sure that this time Bibi actually lost. (You can read about in Martin Indyk’s Innocent Abroad). By historical standards, Dermer’s chaperoning of Mitt Romney to Israel last summer on behalf of Netanyahu, his boss, is no great offense.

The problem isn’t that Dermer supported Romney. It’s why he supported Romney. Like Romney, and like Netanyahu himself, Dermer can barely contain his contempt for Palestinians, those who empathize with them and those who believe they deserve citizenship in a viable state.

For years now, Bibi’s American defenders have claimed that he’s undergone an ideological transformation, that he’s no longer the man who in the 1990s regularly compared Palestinian control of the West Bank to Nazi control of Europe. It’s a bit dispiriting, therefore, that in the midst of what may prove America’s last real push for two states, Netanyahu has put the U.S. portfolio in the hands of someone who’s espoused all his old views.

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