This morning the New York Times covers a story that has been central to Israeli public debate for months: The ongoing campaign to silence dissent in Israel and suppress the local human rights community.
Reporter Isabel Kershner does not name the official associated with the campaign nor specify the venue where the statement was made:
A senior Netanyahu aide affirmed in an interview last year that Israel was “going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups.”
Here is the full quote from the original article, by Herb Keinon, in the July 16 2009 edition of the Jerusalem Post
“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,” said Ron Dermer, director of policy planning in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Dermer was Natan Sharansky’s ghost writer for the 2004 book “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.” This neoconservative “democratization agenda” manifest was published by the Sheldon Adelson funded Shalem Center, whose alumni now staff many of the senior positions at the Prime Minister’s Office. Dermer used his extensive GOP connections to bring the book to the attention of President Bush, who in a 2005 interview advised anyone who wants “a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy” to read it.
As Finance Minister in the Sharon government, Netanyahu appointed Dermer to the post of Economic Attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and he has come to be known as one of the Prime Minister’s closest advisers. Maariv’s Shalom Yerushalmi reports that Dermer was a central figure in the drafting of the Bar-Ilan speech.
His fellow columnist, Ben Caspit, cites Dermer and uber-hawk Uzi Arad and as architects of the Israeli agenda for the first Netanyahu-Obama summit. Frustrated at the meeting’s failure, Dermer famously told reporters on the flight back that “Two states for two peoples is a stupid and childish solution to a very complex problem.”
The explanation often given by Israeli pundits for Netanyahu’s bankrupt US policy is that the self described “expert on Washington” was unable to fathom the immense changes within the beltway since Bush’s first term.
The fact that his right-hand man on policy is a movement neoconservative with deep roots in the previous administration was probably not helpful. In this context, it is interesting to note the similarities in style and strategy between Dermer’s current campaign and the push to silence dissent in th US ahead of the invasion of Iraq.