In February of 2015, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, was going through a rough period. Amid a contentious election in Israel, the Obama administration accused him of conspiring with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill to arrange an invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a controversial speech on Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran before both houses of Congress, only 14 days before Israelis were set to go to the polls. Administration officials claimed that Dermer knew for two weeks that then-Speaker of the House John Boehner had invited Netanyahu to give a speech on this issue, yet didn’t share the information with anyone in the administration, leading to a situation in which they learned about it from the media. Democratic members of Congress lined up to boycott Netanyahu’s speech, and the Israeli opposition, capitalizing on the mess to improve its election prospects, blamed Dermer and Netanyahu for damaging the U.S.-Israel relationship.
As these events unfolded, rumors began circulating in the halls of the Knesset that Dermer was not long for Washington. “Whatever happens in the election,” one Likud minister told me at the time, “I don’t see how Dermer can stay the ambassador after everything that's happened.” The notion that Dermer had become persona non grata in the Obama White House and a partisan actor in the eyes of many Democrats prevailed, despite constant denials from the Israeli Embassy. Perhaps the only person in the Israeli government who refused to accept it was Netanyahu. “Ron is an excellent ambassador. … I see no reason to end his term in Washington,” he said at the time. Netanyahu went on to win the election, and stayed true to his word: Dermer remained his man in Washington, and there are no signs that he’ll be leaving any time soon.