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Michael Oren joins CNN

Israel’s former envoy to US will offer Middle East commentary, insight for network

Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren speaks in Tel Aviv on December 16, 2013. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren speaks in Tel Aviv on December 16, 2013. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, will be a contributor to CNN.

“Michael will be joining CNN as a Middle East contributor,” a spokeswoman for Oren told JTA in a statement.

A preeminent historian, Oren is best known for writing “Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East” and “Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present.” He served as ambassador from 2009 until September 2013 and now splits his time between Israel, where he lectures at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, and the United States, where he is a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

He was succeeded by Ron Dermer, a former Netanyahu aide who, like Oren, is US-born.

The announcement comes after a week in which Oren appeared on the American news network several times, and authored a column after the passing of Israel’s 11th prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

In an interview with The Times of Israel two weeks ago, Oren said Iran doesn’t take Obama’s military option seriously, called the Iranian nuclear program a “multiple existential threat to Israel,” and said it was “much harder” now for Israel to intervene.

During his stint as ambassador, Oren was able to advance one of his own top priorities: addressing the alienation with some Israeli practices among Jewish Americans. He was a leading voice in making clear to Israeli government leaders that the perception of an erosion of women’s rights in Israel was infuriating the Jewish leadership in the United States. He additionally helped broker a tentative deal that would expand access for women at the Western Wall.

He was also an advocate for developing ties with J Street, the liberal group pushing for more robust American involvement in advancing the peace process.

But his tenure was also marked by tensions between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — two men he openly admires — as well as between the Israeli government and the American Jewish community.

The rockiest point may have come during the 2012 presidential campaign in which Netanyahu was widely seen as backing Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney. Top Democrats were furious with Netanyahu for criticizing Obama’s Iran policy in the months leading up to his re-election.

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