Faced with criticism that he’s playing a part in the deteriorating relationship between Israel and Washington, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not have postponed his speech to Congress until after his election “because then a deal could have happened.”
“What the prime minister was saying, which was new, which is you should link it to Iran’s behavior, meaning Iran has to stop its aggression in the region, it has to stop terrorism around the world, and it has to stop threatening Israel with annihilation,” Dermer told CNN last night.
“…We’ve had an open dialogue and the problem is not that there is a breakdown in communication. The problem is we have a difference of policy. We want to prevent Iran not only from having a nuclear weapon today, we want to prevent it from having a nuclear weapon tomorrow. That’s the difference between the U.S. and Israel, and we will weather this difference just as we have weathered many differences in the past.”
Dermer brushed off criticism of Netanyahu from administration official, congressional Democrats, and a few vocal former Israeli officials.
“The person who’s responsible ultimately for the security of Israel is the prime minister of Israel. And he knows that there are critical times where the prime minister has to speak out. This is one of those times,” he said.
“…I remember that the head of the American CIA also recommended against the operation that took out bin Laden. And your president, President Obama, made a different decision because ultimately it was his responsibility. I trust that the prime minister has the right judgment in dealing with this grave threat to Israel.”
Dermer also responded to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) “near tears” experience, when she claimed she felt offended at the speech.
“I don’t know frankly why she felt that way. I was in the hall during the speech and you saw very broad bipartisan support for what the prime minister had to say,” the ambassador said. “And I think you could just see it for yourself, the speech speaks for itself.”
“…The days when the Jewish people — as the prime minister said in his speech, the days when the Jewish people will be passive in the face of genocidal threats to our annihilation are over. That’s why the prime minister spoke out.”
Given a do-over, Dermer said his government wouldn’t have done anything differently.
“No question about it,” he said. “I don’t know if I could have lived with myself knowing that we had an opportunity to speak out at a critical moment on a threat to the survival of the Jewish state and we would not have taken that opportunity.”