Michael Oren: Joining Kahlon a ‘natural move’
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Michael Oren: Joining Kahlon a ‘natural move’

American-born former ambassador, once considered a Netanyahu ally, says running with Kulanu is not a criticism of the PM

Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren announces his run for the Knesset with Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon, December 24, 2014. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)
Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren announces his run for the Knesset with Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon, December 24, 2014. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States who this week announced that he will run for Knesset with Moshe Kahlon’s new Kulanu party, said Saturday that despite his appreciation for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his joining Kulanu was a “natural move.”

“Not every act is a criticism [of Netanyahu]. I see Kahlon as a man with a vision worthy of support,” Oren told Channel 2’s Meet the Press Saturday.

A historian and author, Oren was personally appointed to the Washington post by Netanyahu, and served as ambassador from 2009 to 2013. He was considered a close confidant of the prime minister.

The US-born Oren, 55, announced he was joining Kulanu on Wednesday, making him Kahlon’s first high-profile recruit.

“The State of Israel lies at a critical junction,” Oren said Wednesday at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “I cannot watch from the sidelines and do nothing while we can find ourselves under a diplomatic offensive. We must take our fate into our own hands.”

Kahlon, a popular former communications minister, has yet to announce his full party’s list.

According to a Channel 2 report Friday, Kahlon was mulling a party position for Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yoav GalantThe two have reportedly held several discussions, leading to the belief that the former head of the IDF’s Southern Command could join the list for the newcomer center-right party.

Galant, 56, has long been considered a valuable potential addition to many political parties and an attractive prospect for Knesset membership because of his security credentials.

On Thursday, Israel Prize laureate Eli Alaluf announced that he was joining Kulanu.

Alaluf, 69, is known primarily due to his work as CEO of the Rashi Fund, a private body devoted to advancing underprivileged populations in Israel, with an emphasis on children and youths. The fund focuses on outlying communities, its efforts divided between educational and social endeavors.

Kahlon’s party is expected to attract large numbers of traditional Likud voters, which may pose a major threat to Netanyahu retaining his premiership after the March 17 elections.

Recent polls suggest Kulanu could garner up to 9 seats.

Kahlon has previously stated that his new party will not be composed of politicians, but of “doers” — an apparent reference to Israeli professionals and technocrats with extensive experience outside the Knesset.

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