Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, played a good natured foil to Stephen Colbert’s over-the-top zingers during a Tuesday night appearance on the satirical faux-news program the Colbert Report.
Colbert opened the segment with a monologue castigating US President Barack Obama for failing to visit Israel.
“He can’t keep putting it off by saying ‘next year in Jerusalem’ at his annual Passover Seder… Obama thinks he can wipe out his shameful recording of never visiting Israel… by visiting Israel. It’s a shanda,” Colbert said, using the Yiddish word for embarrassment or scandal and referring to the president’s scheduled March 20 visit.
Among many jokes, Colbert said that Obama was scheduled to receive the Israel Medal of Distinction from President Shimon Peres during his visit, “but it’s not that great, once you eat the chocolate.”
After wondering, “Will Obama insult the Palestinians by eating the Israeli delicacy falafel, or will he insult the Israelis by eating the Palestinian delicacy falafel?” Colbert introduced Ambassador Oren, who said, “Israel’s great!”
Oren then proceeded to solve (or create) some Jewish identity issues by replying to a “chosen people” comment by saying that “the chosen people is from the Bible, the Jews,” but Israel is the “chosen ally, the ultimate ally” of the United States in the Middle East.
The ambassador outlined the issues facing Israel — Syria, peace talks with Palestinians, Iran’s nuclear ambitions — and said they would be addressed in serious discussions between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Colbert said it must be “awkward” for Netanyahu, since he “wanted the other guy,” a reference to Netanyahu’s ostensible endorsement of Mitt Romney for president, but Oren replied that “Israel doesn’t get involved” in internal US politics and then defended Obama’s secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel as a “friend of Israel.”
When asked point-blank by Colbert, “What about Iran, when do you guys start bombing?” Oren ably deflected the question by stating, “No country has a greater interest than Israel in resolving the situation through diplomatic means.”
“If you do attack Iran, the Colbert Nation is right behind you, with just as many nuclear weapons as you admit to having,” Colbert said to close out the interview.