Former US Ambassador Accuses Obama of Seeking to Harm Relations With Israel
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and current Israeli lawmaker Michael Oren accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of “deliberately” pursuing a policy that harmed U.S.-Israeli relations.
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Oren claimed Obama entered the White House after his first election win in 2008 promoting “an agenda of championing the Palestinian cause and achieving a nuclear accord with Iran.”
“Such policies would have put him at odds with any Israeli leader,” said Oren, who served as the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. between 2009 and the end of 2013, when he was replaced by Ron Dermer. “But Mr. Obama posed an even more fundamental challenge by abandoning the two core principles of Israel’s alliance with America.”
According to Oren, those two core principles are “no daylight,” or basically a pact of non-public disagreement over major issues, and “no surprises,” specifically on policy matters.
Oren explains that Obama first put daylight between the White House and Jerusalem by insisting early on in his presidency that Israel enforce a full settlement-construction freeze in large Jewish blocs in the West Bank and in “Jewish Jerusalem,” contrary to the policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush, who insisted these territories would be a part of Israel in any future deal with the Palestinians.
But Obama refused to censure the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, when he “boycotted negotiations, reconciled with Hamas and sought statehood at the U.N. — all in violation of his commitments to the U.S.”
“He never paid a price,” Oren said.
Additionally, Obama abandoned the principle Oren called “no surprises” when he first met with Netanyahu in 2009 and demanded the settlement freeze and support for a two-state solution, which Netanyahu eventually backed in a public speech at Bar-Ilan University in June 2009.
Around the same time, Obama traveled to the region but skipped Israel, speaking to the Muslim world from Cairo University, where he called the situation for Palestinians “intolerable,” spoke of the need for “two states,” and criticized the settlement enterprise for undermining peace efforts. The president also touted Iran’s right to nuclear power during that address.
And even though Netanyahu ordered a 10-month settlement freeze — the first since 1967 — and championed the two-state solution at Bar-Ilan, he received little credit from the U.S. president, said Oren.
Eventually, Israel would also discover that the U.S. had been secretly negotiating with its sworn enemy — Iran — for months, which resulted in a nuclear agreement that most Israelis rejected. This surprise was compounded by Obama’s admission to an Israeli journalist that a military option could not fix the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, leaving many in Israel aghast.
“The U.S. has no substitute for the state that, though small, remains democratic, militarily and technologically robust, strategically located and unreservedly pro-American,” wrote Oren, encouraging an immediate redress to improve relations between the two countries.
Oren, who is also a historian and a current Knesset member for the Kulanu Party, will release a book called Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide this month.