Israel appreciates that relations with Iran are an important foreign-policy priority for the Obama administration. But equally, I would hope that everyone would appreciate what it means to us to see that the deal that is emerging would pose a threat to the survival of Israel.
Goldberg: Democrats (including, and maybe especially, Jewish Democrats) believe that the prime minister is sometimes disrespectful to the president, and they worry that your government privileges its relations with the Republicans at their expense. Assuming you believe this is wrong, why is this wrong?
Dermer: The prime minister and the president have disagreed on issues, but the prime minister has never intentionally treated the president disrespectfully—and if that is what some people felt, it certainly was not the prime minister’s intention.
In fact, I can tell you, as someone very close to the prime minister, that he has a great deal of respect for the president. He also deeply appreciates the many things that President Obama has done for Israel—from upgraded security cooperation and enhanced intelligence sharing to military assistance and Iron Dome funding to opposing anti-Israel initiatives at the UN.
In an era of intense partisanship here, Israel feels very fortunate that we have tremendous friends on both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans alike are committed to strengthening Israel and to strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance, and we deeply, deeply appreciate this bipartisan support.
Goldberg: How does an address to Congress, one arranged by the Republican speaker, not convey the appearance that you're lobbying against the president?
Dermer: I know that people are trying to turn this into a personal or a partisan issue, but for Israel, it is neither. It is about an issue that affects the fate of the country.
In the last couple of weeks, people have heard from Prime Minister Cameron [of Great Britain] and other European leaders about the Iran issue. One would hope that people would feel that the opinion of the prime minister of Israel, a staunch ally of the United States threatened by Iran with annihilation, would also be worth hearing.
Ultimately, everyone will make their own decisions, but we think it is important that Israel’s voice be heard clearly in this debate at this critical time.
Goldberg: Do you believe that an address by the prime minister to Congress will serve the purpose of toughening up the deal?
Dermer: Of course, no one can know for sure what effect any speech can and will have. But I do think the prime minister has a moral obligation, as the leader of Israel and in living memory of an attempt to annihilate the Jewish people, to speak up about a deal that could endanger the survival of the one and only Jewish state.
The Jewish people are blessed that today, unlike 70 years ago, we have the power to defend ourselves. And Israel will never cede the right to defend itself under any circumstances.