Biden, at the time, famously took the train from his home state of Delaware to Washington. Erdan, who has also been ambassador to the UN since the summer and whose family is living in New York, has also been taking the train to Washington in recent weeks while preparing for his second posting.
Erdan was bullish on the US-Israel relationship during Biden’s time as president.
“I think we can expect years of expanding cooperation to even more areas beyond the existing ones,” he said. “I think there is a strong basis for optimism.”
That hopefulness went beyond Biden himself, with Erdan pointing to presumptive secretary of state Antony Blinken’s testimony to Congress, in which he talked about the US commitment to Israel’s security and prospects for expanding the Abraham Accords, in which four Arab states normalized ties with Israel.
“In talks I have had with factors in the Democratic party and members of Congress, the mainstream of the Democratic party supports Israel very much. They understand that we are an asset to the US and have shared values,” Erdan said.
When it comes to the Iran nuclear deal, Erdan said that Israel will not bend on its position that a return to the 2015 agreement – which Biden seeks if Iran is willing to return to strict compliance with its terms – would be dangerous.
“Israel and the prime minister see the nuclear abilities of the ayatollahs’ regime as an existential danger to Israel’s future. On this topic there are no compromises and no politics. We say our position in the clearest way,” he said.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “is a disaster, because it gives legitimacy for Iran to have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon in a few years,” the ambassador explained. “To return to this agreement and then hope to negotiate a new agreement with Iran for greater and longer enforcement is hopeless. Iran will have no reason to go to a new agreement.”
In addition, he said “Israel will always support a diplomatic solution if possible and an agreement that we think will block Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities.”
While Israel is changing its ambassador to the US, Biden’s choice of ambassador to Israel remains unclear.
The president was said to have been considering bringing Dan Shapiro back to the role, after he was ambassador to Israel for five years under Obama. Dennis Ross, a perennial envoy to the region involved in Israel-Palestinian talks in the past, is also said to be under consideration.
Other possible candidates for ambassador are former members of Congress Robert Wexler of Florida or Steve Israel of New York, as well as Michael Adler, a Biden fundraiser and longtime friend of the president.
Another reported name was Amos Hochstein, the Obama administration’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. Hochstein was born and grew up in Israel, and served in the IDF, and has been frequently interviewed in the Israeli media about Biden in recent months.
The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations held a farewell event for Dermer on Wednesday.
Among the well-wishers was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that “among some of the extraordinary people who served in that post [of ambassador to the US], none has been better than Ron Dermer.”
“What he did for Israel, what he did for the US-Israel alliance, what he did for all of us is something that is not widely known,” Netanyahu said. “He fought for Israel’s interests, whether it be on questions like Iran, which was terrifically important for our future our survival, to bring Jonathan Pollard home…peace treaties that have changed history. Ron has been a crucial and central figure in all these efforts and so many others, I cannot begin to list them.”
The prime minister expressed hope that Dermer will “find a way to continue to use his enormous talents for the future of our people and our state for the American-Israel alliance.”
UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba, with whom Dermer became close in their tenure in Washington, beginning as both countries had deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, also recorded a video message. Both ambassadors were instrumental in launching the Abraham Accords.
“You can go back home now with a huge accomplishment under your belt,” Otaiba said. “The Abraham Accords will change dynamics and the trajectory for our region, and you are partly responsible for that.”
Otaiba added: “I look forward to working with you and seeing you and continuing our friendship wherever we end up. You will always have a friend in me.”
In his remarks to the Conference of Presidents, Dermer said the highlight of his time in Washington was when Netanyahu spoke out against the Iran deal before both houses of Congress in 2015, which was emblematic of what Dermer felt is the role of an ambassador in a sovereign Jewish state.
“Being a Jewish community, no matter how strong and how influential, it’s not the same as Jewish sovereignty, a priceless possession we have, which means we have a voice, we have a shield and we have a refuge,” Dermer said. “A voice means not being silent. We didn’t have that 80 years ago. We had to beg other people to make our case for us.”
Dermer brought the example of Polish diplomat Jan Karski, who brought news of the Nazi concentration camps in Poland to the allies.
“For me to be an ambassador…[means] you’re that voice, and you have to raise that voice as a critical time and if you don’t do it, you’re derelicting your duty…When as ambassador, I have the privilege to go on CNN and speak up on behalf of the Jewish people, I am always conscious of the fact that 80 years ago, Jews really didn’t have a voice,” Dermer said.
When Iran “openly vows and works to destroy us,” Israel must make its case, Dermer added, quoting Netanyahu: “The days in which Jews will be passive in the face of those who seek to annihilate us are over.”