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May 23, 2017 4:18 pm

Trump Came to Israel to ‘Convey Love,’ Says Former Ambassador to US Michael Oren

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Israeli Knesset member Michael Oren. Photo: The Israel Project.

A prominent Israeli parliamentarian on Tuesday offered a buoyant assessment of Donald Trump’s official visit to the Jewish state, which ended earlier in the day with the US president’s departure for Rome.

Michael Oren — a former Israeli ambassador to the US who was elected to the Knesset as a member of the centrist Kulanu Party in 2015 — said Trump had come to Israel “to convey love. The word ‘love’ appeared many times in his speeches.”

Speaking on a conference call hosted by The Israel Project, a Washington-DC based strategic communications organization, Oren noted that Trump’s warmth was also matched with strategic assurances, especially regarding the threat posed by Iran.

“That was a very prominent message that was hammered in from beginning to end,” Oren said. “And it was welcomed in Israel, because it very much dovetails with our government’s position that Iran is a major source of instability and violence in the world.”

On several occasions during his 27 hours in Israel, Trump declared that Iran would not be allowed to weaponize its nuclear program. He also repeated the call he made during his earlier stop in Saudi Arabia for a renewed push against terrorism in the region.

“Israelis have experienced firsthand the hatred and terror of radical violence,” Trump said in a speech at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday. “Israelis are murdered by terrorists wielding knives and bombs. Hamas and Hezbollah launch rockets into Israeli communities where schoolchildren have to be trained to hear the sirens and run to bomb shelters. ISIS targets Jewish neighborhoods, synagogues, and storefronts. And Iran’s leaders routinely call for Israel’s destruction.”

Included in Trump’s schedule on Tuesday was a meeting in Bethlehem with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

“He came back unequivocal that Abbas was ready for peace talks, that Abbas is a man of peace,” Oren said. “That was met with more skepticism by the Israeli public, who can’t point to any specific evidence to support that contention.”

In terms of the mechanics of a future peace process itself, Oren argued Trump had “corrected two cardinal mistakes” committed by his predecessors. Firstly, Oren said, the international mediation of the Palestinian conflict with Israel established under the US-driven road map of 2002 — which created an international “Quartet” composed of the US, EU, UN and Russia — had been an error.

“If one member of the Quartet had higher demands than the others, the others couldn’t assail those demands,” he said.

Secondly, Oren continued, negotiations between the parties would no longer be “nailed” by a commitment to a preordained formula, most obviously the two-state solution. “This removed a tremendous incentive, certainly for the Palestinians, to negotiate,” he commented.

Oren asserted that Israelis no longer assumed that peace with the Palestinians was the best way to achieve peace with the Arab world. “We now look at the possibility of peace with the Arab world as a way of yielding peace with the Palestinians,” he said.

Without going into detail, Oren suggested that if the US did “something significant” on the July 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which he described as a “source of utmost concern for us and our Arab neighbors,” it would boost the prospects for a peace settlement between Israel and the Arabs.

“The president said several times that there is an opportunity right now that Israel should not miss,” Oren concluded. “That message was heard by the Israeli people.”


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