WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice has met multiple times with Israel’s U.S. ambassador Ron Dermer, the White House said.
“Ambassador Rice and Ambassador Dermer have met multiple times before last week,” Rice’s spokesman, Alistair Baskey, told JTA on Monday, responding to an article in Haaretz the same day that quoted Rice as telling an American Jewish leader that Dermer had never asked to meet with her.
“We will decline to provide details on those meetings, but would note that in her role as National Security Advisor, Ambassador Rice’s principal Israeli interlocutor is her counterpart National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen, with whom she engages very frequently,” Baskey said. “This is not unique to Israel; it’s the norm. Ambassador Dermer engages frequently with other White House officials.”
The Haaretz report said a U.S. Jewish leader had asked Rice several months ago why she had not met with Dermer, and she replied, “He never asked to meet me. Besides, I understood that he’s too busy traveling to Sheldon Adelson’s events in Las Vegas.”
Dermer had attended a Republican Jewish Coalition event in Las Vegas. Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate and a major RJC funder, is close to Dermer as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Baskey described the report of the conversation as “based on unattributed hearsay, and no one sought to check with us before running the piece.”
The report comes against the background of increased tensions between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over Iran policy and Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects.
“This is yet another distraction from the reality,” said Baskey, “which is that the U.S.-Israel relationship today is actually fundamentally stronger in many respects than it’s ever been.”
The Israeli Embassy did not return a request by JTA for comment.