A new breed of Israeli diplomat

Ron Dermer, right, with Israeli Knesset member Natan Sharansky. The two co-wrote the bestseller ‘The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom To Overcome Tyranny and Terror.It’s not really that surprising that Ron Dermer wasnamed the new Israeli minister for …

Ron Dermer, right, with Israeli Knesset member Natan Sharansky. The two co-wrote the bestseller ‘The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom To Overcome Tyranny and Terror.It’s not really that surprising that Ron Dermer was
named the new Israeli minister for Economic Affairs at
the Israel Embassy in Washington. Although he’s only
33, politics had always been in Dermer’s blood, having
grown up in the 1970s as the son of the mayor of Miami
Beach, and being the brother of David, the current
mayor of that south Florida Jewish Mecca.

That Israel would recognize the advantage of placing
someone with an American sensibility in such an
important position in Washington can only be an
advantage for U.S. companies looking for economic
potential in Israel’s recovering economy.

His varied background in both economics and
government makes him an ideal candidate for the job.
Dermer received his B.A. in finance and management at
the Wharton School of Business, University of
Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree in macroeconomic
policy and political philosophy at Oxford University.
He moved to Israel in 1996, and soon found himself as
chief strategist for the Yisrael B’Aliya party of
Natan Sharansky, and later as economic and political
strategic advisor to Minister of Finance Binyamin Netanyahu.

His job, Dermer says, is very simple: to tell as many
people as he can about the tremendous opportunities
offered by doing business in Israel today, a mutual
boon to the economy of both countries.

“I think the two countries are almost perfectly
suited for joint ventures in the field of high-tech,”
says the 33-year-old Dermer. “Israel brings the
expertise and technology, and American partners offer
the know-how and skill to bring products to market –
both in America and around the world. These marriages
of Israeli high-tech and American managerial and
marketing expertise have been going on for some time,
but I expect them to accelerate in the next few years
as Israel’s capital markets open up, and Israel
becomes a more attractive place in which to do
business.”

As a high tech superpower, he notes, Israel has with
more high-tech start-ups per capita than any country
in the world, which naturally lends itself to forming
partnerships with the country that has the highest
number of start-up companies in the world.
“I think multinational businesses dependent on high
tech should be trying to get a foothold in the Israeli
market,” says the Miami Beach native. “Companies like
Intel and Motorola have R & D facilities in Israel for
a reason – they know that when it comes to developing
most cutting-edge technology, Israel is definitely the
place to be.”

As economic attaché in Washington, Dermer’s primary
focus will be improving government-to-government and
government-to-business economic relations with the US,
as well as dealing with other issues from foreign aid
to trade issues to loan guarantees.

Loyalty to Netanyahu notwithstanding, Dermer says the
economic benefits now available in Israel to US
companies are a direct result of the economic policies
installed by the former prime minister.

“No country in the world is implementing so many
economic reforms so quickly,” notes Dermer. “Netanyahu
has been in office less that two years and he has
slashed the government budget and transfer payments,
decreased taxes, poured money into infrastructure
projects, solved a long-term pension problem,
privatized state assets, and is on the verge of major
capital market reform. These reforms are
revolutionizing the Israeli economy.

“Before Bibi became finance minister, the Israeli
economy could not take full advantage of Israel’s
tremendous human capital and ability to create
conceptual products, because the private sector was
burdened under the weight of a bloated public sector,
high taxes, high regulation, government monopolies and
tight credit markets. Now Israel’s economy is speeding
into the 21st century. It is no surprise that the Tel
Aviv stock market has soared since
he came into office. People understand that when you
institute the kinds of reforms Netanyahu is making,
growth is bound to come.”

Despite his age, Dermer is considered a natural
spokesman for the Israeli government, having appeared
on numerous television talk-show programs including
CNN, BBC, Fox, and NBC to articulate the political
situation during the last four years. He is also a
former political columnist for The Jerusalem Post, as
well as author of hundreds of political articles,
commentaries, and studies, in part as a result his
work as a political pollster.

His most famous work was the publication last year of
a book he co-wrote with Sharansky, the
former refusenik in the Soviet Gulag, The Case For
Democracy: The Power of Freedom To Overcome Tyranny
and Terror.
The book – which made the New York Times
bestseller list – was quoted often by President Bush
as a blueprint of his own views on promoting the
spread of democracy throughout the world, and it
earned Dermer a visit to the Oval Office a week after
Bush’s reelection.

Dermer is understandably honored that the government
of Israel has placed its confidence in him, and sees
the position as an extension of what he was taught
while growing up.

“I was raised in a family that saw public service as
the highest privilege,” he says. “My father served the
public as a two-term mayor of Miami Beach nearly 40
years ago, and my brother is the current mayor of
Miami Beach. I came to Israel in the hope that I could
dedicate myself to serving the State of Israel and the
people of Israel. That I will now be able to do it in
America – a country I know and love – is a unique
opportunity.”

Dermer laughingly dismisses his familial political
connections as a reason for his new job, which he
starts this month.

“I think Israelis who grew up in the US have much to
offer – in many fields, including the economy. Don’t
forget that Americans who come to Israel are generally
not running away from anything. Almost every
American-Israeli loves America. Yet they have migrated
out of a profound idealistic attachment to Israel. I
believe that the more that idealism is reflected in
the halls of power, the better off the country will
be.

“I think I was chosen for this post less for my
economic background and more because of my
understanding of the United States. I was born an
American, raised an American, and frankly, I think
like an American. I believe that is why I was chosen
over a number of very well qualified candidates. I
intend to prove that it was a wise decision.”

Perhaps his appointment says something about the new
breed of Israeli diplomat: young, articulate, and…
American.