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Dermer meeting with Blinken in Washington anything but routine

The Israeli minister spoke with the U.S. secretary of state amid Washington’s efforts to serve as a normalization broker between Riyadh and Jerusalem.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 17, 2023. Photo by Freddie Everett/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 17, 2023. Photo by Freddie Everett/U.S. State Department.

The U.S. State Department described Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Thursday morning meeting with Israel Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, who is known as “Bibi’s brain,” as low-key.

“The secretary reaffirmed the United States’ enduring friendship and steadfast commitment to Israel’s security,” Matthew Miller, the department spokesman, stated. 

The two officials discussed “cooperation on regional challenges, including threats posed by Iran and its regional proxies in Lebanon and elsewhere. They also discussed ongoing efforts to further Israel’s full integration into the Middle East,” Miller added.

Blinken “emphasized the importance of Israel and the Palestinians taking affirmative steps to de-escalate tensions and bolster stability” in Judea and Samaria, per the department’s readout.

The meeting was closed to press, with Foggy Bottom releasing no videos and just a few photos. Dermer’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Vedant Patel, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, told reporters that the meeting was “a routine engagement where they discussed a wide variety of issues.” 

Ron Dermer Antony Blinken
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) poses with Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on August 17, 2023. Photo by Freddie Everett/U.S. State Department.

In answer to a reporter’s question about whether Israel’s progression into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program was a topic of conversation between Dermer and Blinken, Patel said, “I’m sure it was discussed.” That subject did not appear in the official U.S. readout.

Dermer was also scheduled to meet on Thursday with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, along with Brett McGurk, White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, and Amos Hochstein, special presidential coordinator for global infrastructure and energy security.

The series of meetings comes as the Biden administration makes a push to establish a framework for discussions about normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, with Washington serving as a broker.

Dermer, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States and a close confidante of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was brought on as a minister in the current government primarily to handle normalization efforts and containment of Iran—two topics on which Dermer has been critical of Biden administration policies.

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