Lots of “downs,” for sure, but we have to also seek out the “ups” wherever we can find them.
American-born Michael Oren – historian, immediate past Israeli ambassador to the US, newly elected MK in the Kulanu party, – has surprised me, and a whole lot of other people as well. He was always a very middle of the road, “two-state” advocate, and someone who has seemed to be an “establishment” type. I would not – could not! – have predicted the critique of Obama he has now produced.
Oren has written a book – Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, which will be released June 23 – and a major article in the WSJ, in which he discusses Obama’s attitude towards Israel with startling candidness.
John Podhoretz wrote about the book thus (emphasis added):
“It’s an ultimate insider’s story told while all the players save Oren are still in place…
“It’s not that there’s lots of breaking news in ‘Ally’ that will startle people. Rather, it makes news on almost every page with its incredibly detailed account of the root hostility of the Obama administration toward the Jewish state…
“On major matters, the administration seemed to hold Israel accountable for problems it had nothing to do with…
“Oren also writes about bizarrely petty offenses. In 2010, Obama left Israel off a list of countries he mentioned as having helped in the wake of the Haiti earthquake when it was the first nation in the world to dispatch relief teams and get them to the disaster sites — because the president was angry about something having to do with the peace process…”
In his Wall Street Journal piece, written this week, Oren writes (emphasis added):
“’Nobody has a monopoly on making mistakes.’ When I was Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to the end of 2013, that was my standard response to reporters asking who bore the greatest responsibility—President Barack Obama or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—for the crisis in U.S.-Israel relations.
“I never felt like I was lying when I said it. But, in truth, while neither leader monopolized mistakes, only one leader made them deliberately…
“From the moment he entered office, Mr. Obama promoted 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. But Mr. Obama posed an even more fundamental challenge by abandoning the two core principles of Israel’s alliance with America.
“The first principle was ‘no daylight’…immediately after his first inauguration, Mr. Obama put daylight between Israel and America.
“’When there is no daylight,’ the president told American Jewish leaders in 2009, ‘Israel just sits on the sidelines and that erodes our credibility with the Arabs’…
“The other core principle was ‘no surprises’…
“Israeli leaders typically received advance copies of major American policy statements on the Middle East and could submit their comments. But Mr. Obama delivered his Cairo speech, with its unprecedented support for the Palestinians and its recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear power, without consulting Israel.
“Similarly, in May 2011, the president altered 40 years of U.S. policy by endorsing the 1967 lines with land swaps—formerly the Palestinian position—as the basis for peace-making. If Mr. Netanyahu appeared to lecture the president the following day, it was because he had been assured by the White House, through me, that no such change would happen.”
Obama’s inherent hostility towards Israel will come as news to very few of us. It is a very “down” side of what we must contend with today.
The “up” aspect is Oren’s willingness to catalogue his experience publicly, and point an appropriate finger. More routinely, there is an inclination to diplomatically paper-over problems between nations, especially nations that are supposed to be the closest of allies. One can only guess at the level of distress and frustration Oren coped with during the years he served as ambassador.
What is more, I see it as part of the “up” side that Prime Minister Netanyahu is refusing to comment or criticize Oren or apologize on behalf of Israel. Netanyahu has had to swallow a whole lot of fury with regard to Obama’s treatment over the years. Surely, he must feel vindicated at some level now, although he cannot give overt expression to this vindication. Let us hope he continues to stand strong.
It goes without saying that the response of the Obama administration to Oren’s revelations has been angry and indignant. That angry indignation was expressed here in Israel by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who has been pressuring Netanyahu to apologize. All the more credit to Bibi that he is not responding to this pressure.
The one who did back down is Moshe Kahlon, head of the Kulanu party, to which Oren belongs. He says that Oren does not speak for his party.
According to the article I cite above, Gilad Erdan, Minister of Internal Security, has written something criticizing Oren, as well. That disappointed me.
An item of importance to mention here, and a real downer:
Credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP
A famous Catholic church – the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish – in Tagbah, near the Kinneret, suffered a serious fire on Thursday. Arson is being assumed because of the nature of the fire, and an investigation is in process.
I want first to condemn this act of arson in the strongest terms. This is not only wrong morally in and of itself; it tears the fabric of Israeli society and damages the name of Israel – which prides herself on being a place where there is freedom of worship for all. I would like my Christian readers especially to know how abhorrent Israelis find this behavior.
Netanyahu said: “There is no room for hate or intolerance in our society.”
Chief Rabbi David Lau declared that the attack “contradicts Jewish values and human morality.”
At the same time, I caution just a bit of patience, as the investigation proceeds. Perhaps, as is being charged in some quarters, ultra-religious young Jews are responsible for this. But we do not know this yet. I have memories of other times that the assumption was made, in the face of religious desecration of one sort or another, that it was Jews who did it – when it later turned out that others were responsible but had attempted to make it appear that it was an act of Jewish extremists.
A group of young Jews was questioned, but then released quickly because there was no evidence that they were involved Fervently I hope it was not Jews who did this, but I am prepared to accept the verdict that it was, if that is what is determined in the end, and to fully condemn those responsible.
What everyone needs to know is that the investigation will be serious.
Time grows short, and so I simply say, Shabbat Shalom.