Netanyahu said to deny US request to disavow Oren op-ed

PM tells US Ambassador Dan Shapiro he won’t discuss MK’s opinion piece; Likud No. 2 denies ex-envoy’s claims US left Israel high and dry

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Michael Oren with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro in Jerusalem during President Barack Obama's visit to Israel in March 2013 (Facebook)
Michael Oren with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro in Jerusalem during President Barack Obama's visit to Israel in March 2013 (Facebook)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an American request to publicly distance himself from the criticism aimed at the White House by former ambassador Michael Oren, according to an Israeli newspaper.

Oren, now a member of the Knesset with the Kulanu party, wrote an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday accusing US President Barack Obama of intentionally abandoning Israel.

The op-ed has drawn unhappy reactions from the US, including an angry phone call from US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to Netanyahu, asking the prime minister to renounce Oren’s ideas in a public statement, according to a report in Haaretz Thursday.

Netanyahu refused Shapiro’s request and said he had no intention of publicly addressing the piece, an anonymous source told the newspaper.

The prime minister said Oren was no longer a public official but a politician belonging to another party and therefore he saw no reason he should intervene, Israel’s Army Radio reported, citing a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

The Prime Minister’s Office refused to share Netanyahu’s views on the issue.

Shapiro’s office also refused to comment on the content of his call with Netanyahu.

Though Netanyahu has stayed mum, the No. 2 in his party, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, said Thursday morning that Oren’s words were “not in line with reality.”

“Between the two countries there exist fundamental disagreements and we stand by our positions, but the United States was and remains our greatest friend and gives crucial assistance to the economy, security and strength of Israel,” he said.

Shapiro also reached out to Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon Wednesday to address the claims made in the opinion piece and in a book Oren has written about his time as ambassador to the US.

Kahlon, in response, sent a letter to Shapiro emphasizing that they were Oren’s personal views and did not reflect the party line of Kulanu.

Oren, according to Kahlon’s letter, wrote his book before he joined the party. Kahlon, who serves an finance minister, said he had summoned Oren and made clear his appreciation for the US’s commitment to Israel.

Read The Times of Israel’s interview: Michael Oren sees a US alliance in tatters, and Israel ‘on our own’

Speaking to Army Radio Wednesday morning, Shapiro called Oren’s claims “imaginary” and accused him of creating drama to sell books.

The sentiment was later echoed by a US State Department spokesperson, who said Oren’s claims were not accurate and did not reflect the reality of US-Israeli ties when Oren was a diplomat.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also denied Oren’s statements, saying they were made in order to sell his book.

Jonathan Beck contributed to this report.

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