Knesset member and former ambassador to the US Michael Oren on Monday penned a scathing attack on US President Barack Obama’s policies toward Israel, claiming that while both he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made mistakes, “only one leader made them deliberately.”
In an article in The Wall Street Journal headlined “How Obama Abandoned Israel,” Oren, who served as Israel’s ambassador in Washington during Obama’s first term in office, recounted various gaffes committed by the Israeli government. Currently a lawmaker with the Kulanu party, Oren cited the announcement of settlement expansion on the eve of visits by top US officials, the now infamous “lecture” Netanyahu gave Obama during a photo op in the Oval Office in 2011, and the prime minister’s speech to Congress earlier this year.
Oren absolved Netanyahu of some of the incidents, claiming that some missteps were taken by mid-level staffers without the prime minister’s knowledge (e.g., two instances where settlement expansion was announced just as Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to arrive in Israel).
Netanyahu even apologized to Biden personally for the timing, Oren noted.
Obama, on the other hand, deliberately deviated from several long-held traditions in the US-Israel relationship, aired disagreements in the media, and pointedly skipped over Israel on his first Middle East tour after being elected, he said.
With these very public displays of dissatisfaction with Israel, Obama violated the “no sunlight,” as Oren referred to it, principle of not airing discord between the two governments.
Another principle Oren says Obama did not follow was one of “no surprises,” that is, refraining from public announcements of US expectations of Jerusalem until the issues had first been ironed out away from cameras and microphones.
According to Oren, 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 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.
Oren is the author of the forthcoming book “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide,” due to be published later this month.