Defending Israel's Assault on Gaza

Ron Dermer (right) shows a masterful touch in framing the Israeli view on why it invaded Gaza and inflicted 1,000 or more civilian casualties.If you wanted a role model for framing issues, you couldn't do better than Ron Dermer, the American-born and educated Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Dermer has his hands full these days as Israel, for all intents and purposes, has invaded Gaza to root out Hamas tunnels and rocket launchers, inflicting significant civilian casualties that have enraged the Muslim world and made Israel's allies cringe.

He defends Israel early and often and without an apologetic tone. He has framed the issue so that Israel, facing a persistent barrage of rocket fire from Gaza, has a right to defend itself. Period. 

He may have cut his teeth on this line of argument, according to a New York Times feature story, when — as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania — Dermer was assigned the task of arguing Israel should be condemned for its treatment of Palestinians. Dermer was so passionate, he won the debate. When asked why he argued so fiercely for a point of view he strongly disagreed with, Dermer said, "I lied. Like they do."

If Dermer was merely a passionate blowhard, he wouldn't command the respect he receives. And he receives a lot. The Times noted Dermer has made more than 50 television, radio and print interviews since the Israelis and Hamas began fighting.

Dermer enjoys a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made a round of appearances on weekend talk shows, at times using the same phrases as Dermer — "If someone was raining down bombs on your cities in America, you would expect a response."

Netanyahu, like Dermer, blamed the civilian casualties in Gaza on Hamas, which they claim uses civilians as "human shields." "They care more about shaping world opinion than protecting their people," they said. 

When protesters shouted that Israeli solders were "war criminals," Dermer shot back, “Israeli Defense Forces should be given a Nobel Peace Prize."

When the Federal Aviation Administration, following the lead of several major U.S. commercial air carriers, closed down flights from the United States to Ben Guriom Airport in Tel Aviv, Dermer said the action was unnecessary and played into the hands of Hamas. Former New York Michael Bloomberg picked up the defense, saying Israel's Iron Dome defense had prevented any bombs from landing at the airport, but the flight ban created an open invitation for Hamas to try harder.

Dermer's hawkish attitude flies against the wave of American sentiment and the predilections of the President. However, when your adversary denies Israel's right to exist, you don't have many options. Undaunted and unapologetic (Dermer organized Mitt Romney's 2012 trip to Israel), Dermer says, "The price of sovereignty is imperfection."

His full-throated defense doesn't convince everybody, but it also doesn't leave anybody with any doubt.