Israel today named a replacement for Michael Oren, the ambassador to the U.S. whose appearance at UC Irvine in February 2010 sparked what would become an international incident and debate over the freedom of speech.
Ron Dermer, a former adviser on U.S. affairs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an organizer for Mitt Romney's trip to Jerusalem during last year's presidential campaign, is expected to take over for fellow U.S. native Oren next month.
Actually, Dermer's ties to the Romney campaign briefly threatened his chances of getting the ambassadorship, but he has since worked to repair ties with the Obama administration and Democrats, reports The Hill.
“Ron Dermer has all the qualities necessary to successfully fill this important post,” Netanyahu said via the Washington, D.C.-based paper today. “I have known him for many years and I know that Ron will faithfully represent the State of Israel in the capital of our
greatest ally–the USA. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I wish him great success.”
Success may be fleeting on the campus of UCI, however. Muslim students arrested for repeatedly interrupting Oren's Feb. 8 speech considered the now-outgoing ambassador a “war criminal” for serving as an information officer during the 2009 Gaza Massacre, a three-week siege that led to the deaths of between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis (four from friendly fire).
“Michael Oren is a trained propagandist,” Irvine arrestee Taher Herzallah later said at UC Santa Barbara. “Michael Oren was directly involved in the Gaza Massacre. . . . For me a protest is standing up, getting in somebody's face and telling it how it is.”
Getting in New York-born Oren's face resulted in misdemeanor convictions for Herzallah and nine of the other so-called “Irvine 11” defendants. (An 11th Muslim student settled his case.) Those convicted are appealing on First Amendment grounds.
While serving as the director of policy planning in Netanyahu's office, Miami-born Dermer denounced the NGO Human Rights Watch for criticizing Israel's role in the Gaza Massacre.
“We are going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups; we are not going to be sitting ducks in a pond for the human rights groups to shoot at us with impunity,” he said at the time.
If Dermer follows his predecessor Oren's path to Irvine, one piece of advice: bring a parka.