Oren criticism of Obama ‘absolutely false,’ Washington says

State Department spokesman says lawmaker’s account of time as envoy to US doesn’t reflect what actually happened

Secretary of State John Kerry and then-ambassador Michael Oren at Ben Gurion Airport in March 2013. (US State Department)
Secretary of State John Kerry and then-ambassador Michael Oren at Ben Gurion Airport in March 2013. (US State Department)

Former ambassador Michael Oren’s scathing attacks on US President Barack Obama’s policies toward the Jewish state are “absolutely inaccurate and false,” the State Department said on Wednesday, hitting back at the Israeli lawmaker for a series of critical statements.

Oren, who currently serves as a Knesset member, let loose Monday in an article published in The Wall Street Journal headlined “How Obama Abandoned Israel,” unleashing a volley of criticism aimed at the current US administration, including an accusation that the White House deliberately abandoned Israel.

Spokesman John Kirby shot down Oren’s claims against the president and stated that the Israeli lawmaker’s account does not reflect the true relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli leadership.

“It’s the Secretary’s view that his account, particularly the account of President Obama’s leadership in the US-Israeli relationship, is absolutely inaccurate and false, and doesn’t reflect what actually happened in the past,” Kirby said.

The statement from Foggy Bottom was the latest blowback over Oren’s account, which has preceded a book release detailing his time as ambassador during Obama’s first term in office.

Oren’s book “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide,” is due to be published next week.

Earlier in the night, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads Oren’s Kulanu party, distanced himself from the statements in an apologetic letter to US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.

Speaking for Secretary of State John Kerry, Kirby accused Oren of having “limited visibility,” in the workings of the bilateral ties.

“The secretary’s view is that his account is absolutely inaccurate and false and doesn’t reflect actually what happened in the past,” Kirby told reporters.

The State Department spokesman asserted that Oren’s account could be attributed the fact that the lawmaker is “a former ambassador and a politician with a book to sell,” rather than from a desire to unveil the truth regarding US-Israeli relations.

However, Kirby maintained that ties between Israel and the US remained strong, despite the tiff.

“[The] bonds [between Israel and the US] are unbreakable,” Kirby said. “What matters is moving forward,” he continued, adding that the two countries still maintain an “important relationship.”

In his article, Oren stated that Obama did not follow the principles of maintaining a facade of “business as usual” no matter what rifts arose between the countries and also did not refrain from public announcements of US expectations of Jerusalem until the issues had first been ironed out away from cameras and microphones. Kirby, however, dismissed the accusation outright.

“We continue to work at this and have a close relationship beyond just security,” he said. “Our view of [Oren’s] version of events is that it is not accurate.”

According to Oren’s article, Israeli leaders typically received advance copies of major American policy statements on the Middle East and could submit their comments. But Obama delivered his Cairo speech in 2009, with its unprecedented support for the Palestinians and its recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear energy, without consulting Israel.

Oren’s account included what he sees as the potentially most harmful consequence of the rift in US-Israeli relations – the negotiations conducted behind Israel’s back with its “deadliest enemy” – Iran. He concluded by warning against further “erosion” of the “vital alliance” between the US and Israel.

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.

Earlier Wednesday, Ambassador Shapiro also hit back at Oren, saying the claims were “imaginary.”

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

“Oren is now in a different position; he is a politician and a writer who wants to sell books,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro, on the other hand, described the relationship between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “effective, close and the kind that serves the interests of both countries.”

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