Kahlon apologizes to US over ex-envoy’s Obama putdown

Kulanu leader says MK Michael Oren’s opinions don’t reflect party, emphasizes appreciation of Obama support of Israel

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)

Kulanu party chief Moshe Kahlon apologized to the White House Wednesday, saying fellow party member Michael Oren’s withering criticism of US President Barack Obama didn’t reflect his party’s position.

Oren, a former Israeli envoy to the US, has let loose with a volley of opprobrium aimed at the Obama administration, including accusing the White House of deliberately abandoning Israel. His new book “Ally” is filled with critical positions on the Obama administration.

In a letter to US ambassador Dan Shapiro, Kahlon said he distanced himself from the statements.

“I was always very candid and vocal [sic] expressing my deep and sincere appreciation for President Obama’s efforts to stand by Israel and defend its interests,” Kahlon wrote.

Kahlon stressed that Oren’s criticism did not reflect his party’s stance: “The moment I became aware of Dr. Oren’s recent article I summoned him immediately to my office and he made it clear that all that was written reflects his own personal views [sic].”

Oren was one of the first major names to join Kahlon’s party, and is number four on Kulanu’s Knesset slate. The faction, a senior coalition partner, won 10 seats in its first try at the Knesset, running on bread and butter issues.

Kahlon said that the book was written before Oren joined the party.

On Monday, Oren published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in which he charged that while both US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made mistakes in their relations over the past few years, Obama’s mistakes were “deliberate.”

Oren accused the administration of flouting two longstanding traditions in bilateral ties, maintaining an outward appearance of “business as usual,” even during disagreement, and not “springing on the Israelis” policies without first quietly ironing them out.

The accusations have come days ahead of the formal release of “Ally,” a memoir by Oren recounting his time as Israel’s envoy in Washington.

In the book, he castigates the president for having negotiated with “our deadliest enemy,” Iran, on what for Israel is the “existential issue” of Tehran’s nuclear program, “without so much as informing us.”

Speaking to The Times of Israel this week, Oren accused Obama of handing Hamas its greatest victory by allowing the US to restrict flights to Israel because of rocket attacks over the summer.

The former envoy castigates the president in the book for having long had no compunction about pursuing a diplomatic accord with Iran “even at the risk of reaching a deal unacceptable to Israel.” Were Israel to take “matters into its own hands,” Oren writes, “the White House would keep its distance and offer to defend Israel only if it were counterstruck by a hundred thousand Hezbollah missiles.”

Earlier Wednesday, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro hit back at Oren, saying Oren’s claims were “imaginary.”

“His account does not reflect the truth. It’s imaginary,” Shapiro told Israel’s Army Radio Wednesday.

“Oren is now in a different position; he is a politician and a writer who wants to sell books,” Shapiro said, referring to the upcoming publication of Oren’s book about US-Israeli bilateral ties.

Shapiro, however, described the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu as “effective, close and the kind that serves the interests of both countries.”

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