Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, has condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned address to Congress on Iran at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner.
Kurtzer took specific aim at Israel’s current U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer, who arranged the speech, as a senior administration official also denounced the visit while signaling that the White House is "outraged" at not being consulted about the controversial trip, The New York Times
"He’s a political operative, he’s not really an ambassador," Kurtzer said of Dermer. "What he did was totally unacceptable from a standpoint of diplomacy.
"To think about going behind the back of a friendly country’s administration and working out this kind of arrangement with the parliament or the Congress — it’s unheard of."
The administration official, who was not identified by the Times, took the unusual step of sharply attacking Dermer, while saying that Israel’s envoy to the U.S. had "repeatedly placed Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States," the newspaper said.
Kurtzer said that although the Obama administration would not take the rare official step of making Dermer "persona non grata," which would result in him being expelled from the country, it could ask Israel to reprimand or remove him.
"He has soiled his pad; who’s he going to work with?" Kurtzer told the Times.
But Dermer defended himself in a phone interview with the paper, saying, "I have no regrets whatsoever that I have acted in a way to advance my country’s interests."
Dermer said that he had not intended to "slight" the White House by agreeing to Boehner’s offer for Netanyahu to speak to Congress about the growing threat of Iran and the dangers of a nuclear deal between that country and Western powers, including the U.S.
And Dermer said he had expected the speaker to notify the White House, which has revealed that it was blindsided by the March invitation.
"My understanding was that it was the speaker’s prerogative to do, and that he would be the one to inform the administration," Dermer said.
"The prime minister feels very strongly that he has to speak on this issue. That’s why he accepted the invitation, not to wade into your political debate or make this a partisan issue, and not to be disrespectful to the president."
Dermer, who is so close to Netanyahu that he’s called "Bibi’s brain," passed on Boehner’s invitation to the Israeli leader without informing the White House, even though Dermer had met with Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before Netanyahu's trip to Washington, D.C., was revealed.
According to the Times, the administration has called the invitation a "breach of diplomatic protocol," and in a veiled act of retribution, officials declared that Obama would not hold talks with Netanyahu
during his visit, the Times reported.
Democrats have called the invite a political ploy to bolster Republican attempts to introduce new sanctions against Iran while the administration is in the middle of delicate negotiations with the Middle East country to prevent it from building nuclear weapons.
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