Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Michael Oren: U.S. More Isolationist, But Still Very Pro-Israel (INTERVIEW)

September 11, 2013 8:06 am 3 comments

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. Photo: Israeli government.

JNS.orgDuring his term as Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren found himself faced with a rapidly changing America, a Middle East on fire, and an Israel that had to deftly navigate between the seismic changes taking place in both locations. But looking at the polls, which continuously show high support for Israel among Americans, Oren is satisfied, saying they show that support for Israel in American public opinion is “the highest it’s ever been.”

“At a time when the Middle East is turbulent, Israel is an island of stability,” Oren says.

Oren says his greatest challenge as ambassador was “dealing with the new situation in which everything is dynamic, where circumstances change significantly and very quickly, both in the U.S. as well as the Middle East.” The outgoing ambassador, whose successor is Ron Dermer, elaborates on those dynamics in the following interview.

Are American citizens apathetic toward the Middle East and Israel?

“Israel always interests the American citizen, but there is a weariness over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The economic crisis has led America toward a deepening isolationism. Still, this has not had an effect on our long-standing, deep strategic alliance with the U.S. We’re talking about a special relationship in all of its aspects, beyond the strategic ties.”

How are the changes in the U.S. affecting the political scene?

“The results of the 2012 elections are more significant than the results of the 2008 elections. There is a new political reality in the U.S. different than what we knew some 30 years ago. The changes are happening, but the support for Israel within American society remains strong. This attests to our success in reading the changing winds there and acting accordingly. This has huge significance as it has direct influence on the administration’s support for protecting Israel, including diplomatic support at the United Nations and other international forums.

“Israel enjoys bipartisan support in Congress and this allows us to achieve many things, for instance, in American influence on the Europeans to include Hezbollah on their list of terror organizations, as well as what I consider one of the most significant achievements of my term as ambassador here: The American decision to assist in funding the Iron Dome system to the tune of about $1.5 billion over the past four years. This decision came after many hours of meetings with senior Congressmen and women as well as opinion pieces in the American media.”

What is your take on the criticism against President Barack Obama that he has acted mistakenly and hesitatingly in the Middle East, directly weakening the West’s clout in the region?

“The changes that have rocked the Middle East over the past few years are very fluid, and very flammable. Nobody has a monopoly on an error-free term in office. It’s very hard to chart a policy that buffers against all the changing variables in the Middle East. I think that in general, with regard to Egypt and Syria, our positions were very close to those of the U.S. It is clear to the Americans that, in Egypt, it is important to safeguard the peace agreement [with Israel]. On Syria, the Israeli position is crystal clear: Israel is not interfering in the civil war in Syria and we do not interfere with the decisions that the Americans take regarding action there.

“[During my time as ambassador] there were friendly and open meetings between Obama and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, and sometimes there was even humor in them. There were good discussions between two pragmatic leaders. Both very educated and intelligent, and spent a lot of hours together discussing fateful issues.

“However, there were disagreements and there was criticism of Israel, but this was essentially over tactics. The disagreements are over two central issues: the way to achieve a permanent solution with the Palestinians, and what is to be done to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Looking back, the gaps between the two sides have been significantly reduced. On the negotiations with the Palestinians, the Americans have dropped their demand for a settlement freeze over the Green Line, and today there are negotiations whose beginning was made possible without preconditions.”

What other issues of disagreement did you have to deal with during your term?

“Our relationship with J Street, a left-wing Jewish group that defines itself as pro-Israel. I appeared before the group and the question that came up again and again is why are we demanding that the Palestinians recognize us as a Jewish state, because the Left in the U.S. perceives this to be a tactical demand, an attempt to place obstacles in the path of the peace process. I explained to them that this is actually the foundation of any peace deal. The mutual recognition of both sides of the national identity of the other. There is no peace without the recognition of the other. It was supremely important to lay out our position and explain that we are sincere and serious about wanting to reach a peace deal.”

“In his 2009 Cairo speech, President Obama drew a link between the establishment of the state of Israel and the Holocaust, a link that is closer to the Arab narrative. Over the years he has corrected this narrative. During his recent visit to Israel, he spoke about a 3,000-year-old connection between the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel, about the roots of the Jewish state, and about Israel as a Jewish state. This is the official position of the administration today. The fact that the Americans accept our version is extremely significant.”

3 Comments

  • The US has always been Isolationist ground wars and large troop deployments from Nam, Beirut, Somalia to the last two wars are the exception not the rule. The first gulf war various military actions Balkans fit in with an isolationist doctrine that are low drag and do not zap US power. Syria fits with that 2 and half years and only once he started gassing people and the world would watch. Obama went a bit early large scale attacks are multiple attacks of 1000 or more killed to singular attacks of around 4000 in one serve. Either way around 8000 or so in total killed by chemical attacks would warrant the current approach of using force.

  • The USA will sell you down the river in a New York minute.
    And Israel will blow up the whole world rather than give up what is now israel. Any questions?

    • Thank you, M McL! Now I know where the expression “punch drunk” comes from…it’s from people who have drunk too much Kool Aid!

      Mr. McL, the jihadists would rather blow up the world than permit one non-Muslim to loudly proclaim his own faith, or lack of faith.

      The jihadists would rather blow up the whole world unless every non-Muslim surrenders and submits to their Muslim masters.

      But, if I understand you correctly, McL, that’s not a problem. It’s the targets of that aggression who are the problem.

      Can you say, Stockholm Syndrome?

      Hey, I think I hear the cookoo clock ringing. Oh, wait…it’s M McL saying a bunch of stuff.

      M McL, here’s a flash for you. If you think your life isn’t going well, it’s because there are a few old men sitting around in a room who have decided that M McL should have a crumby career. Watch out for the cabal M McL…they see you! They’re coming to get you now. With a nice white coat with long sleeves just for you.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Sports US & Canada Tom Brady: Best Part of My Summer Was Watching Julian Edelman Lather Himself in Mud at Dead Sea in Israel

    Tom Brady: Best Part of My Summer Was Watching Julian Edelman Lather Himself in Mud at Dead Sea in Israel

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady may have been bogged down this offseason over the NFL’s “Deflategate” scandal, but he found unusual recourse in images of teammate Julian Edelman lathering his body with potent Dead Sea mud in Israel. Indeed, as Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski became the latest celebrity voice to offer directions on the Israeli-developed navigational app Waze, and wide receiver Matthew Slater happily got married, Brady has been facing legal issues after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed a four-game suspension for Brady as part of a ball-deflating scandal […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →