Oren: Obama may reach out to Islam because 2 Muslim father figures abandoned him

In third op-ed in a week, ex-envoy and new MK says history could judge president’s policy on Islam as naive, detached from reality

President Barack Obama welcomes Ambassador Michael B. Oren of the State of Israel to the White House Monday, July 20, 2009, during the credentials ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors to the United States (White House photo)
President Barack Obama welcomes Ambassador Michael B. Oren of the State of Israel to the White House Monday, July 20, 2009, during the credentials ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors to the United States (White House photo)

In an op-ed published Friday, Kulanu Knesset member and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren speculates that President Barack Obama’s relentless outreach to the Muslim world may stem from the fact that he was abandoned by the two Muslim father figures in his life and therefore seeks acceptance by their co-religionists.

In the article, in Foreign Policy Magazine, Oren also posits that the world may look back on Obama’s approach to Middle East issues as naive and hard to credit.

The piece marks Oren’s third op-ed critical of Obama published in major US media in less than a week. In the first of the series, the former ambassador published “How Obama abandoned Israel” in the Wall Street Journal, followed by “Why Obama is wrong about Iran being ‘rational’ on nukes,” in the Los Angeles Times. He also gave a lengthy interview to the Times of Israel this week in which he echoed charges in his new book, “Ally,” to the effect that aspects of US-Israel ties are “in tatters” because of the president.

The Obama administration responded bitterly to Oren’s earlier criticism of the president, calling it “absolutely false.” His opposite number, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, said Oren was motivated by a desire to sell books. But while freshman MK Oren’s party leader Moshe Kahlon on Wednesday apologized and distanced the party from the Wall Street Journal piece, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly refused a US request to do likewise.

Dreams From My Father
Dreams From My Father

In the Foreign Policy article Friday, Oren writes that “Obama’s attitudes toward Islam clearly stem from his personal interactions with Muslims. These were described in depth in his candid memoir, ‘Dreams from My Father,’ published 13 years before his election as president. Obama wrote passionately of the Kenyan villages where, after many years of dislocation, he felt most at home and of his childhood experiences in Indonesia. I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.”

Oren offers a similar assessment in his new book, acknowledging that he does so “at the risk of armchair psychoanalyzing.” In “Ally,” Oren also says he scoured “Dreams from My Father” in vain “for some expression of reverence, even respect, for the country its author would someday lead” but finds none. Instead, in Oren’s reading, “the book criticizes Americans for their capitalism and consumer culture, for despoiling their environment and maintaining antiquated power structures.” He writes that Obama accused Americans traveling abroad of exhibiting “ignorance and arrogance” — the very same shortcomings, notes Oren dryly, that the president’s critics assigned to him.

In the Foreign Policy article, Oren goes on to say that “Historians will likely look back at Obama’s policy toward Islam with a combination of curiosity and incredulousness. While some may credit the president for his good intentions, others might fault him for being naïve and detached from a complex and increasingly lethal reality.”

Ally by Michael Oren
Ally by Michael Oren

Noting that understanding Obama was crucial to his role as ambassador, a post he held from 2009-13, Oren writes in Foreign Policy that he taught himself an “Obama 101” course and “devoted months to studying the new president, pouring over his speeches, interviews, press releases, and memoirs, and meeting with many of his friends and supporters.”

He says that over his four years as envoy, he was rarely surprised by the president’s approach, especially on Muslim and Middle Eastern affairs.

Oren charges that it is this very approach that led Obama to “boycott” a major gathering in Paris attended by dozens of world leaders following the devastating jihadist terror attacks in January at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, and at a kosher deli in which four Jewish men were killed.

“The president could not participate in a protest against Muslim radicals whose motivations he sees as a distortion, rather than a radical interpretation, of Islam,” Oren writes in Foreign Policy.

A few months after the terror attacks, Obama was roundly criticized for a number of statements in US media in which he seemed to dismiss the anti-Semitic nature of the attack at the deli, instead condemning the “vicious zealots who … randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli.”

Oren says these comments were an extension of Obama’s thinking on Islam and the Mideast. “If there are no terrorists spurred by Islam, there can be no purposely selected Jewish shop or intended Jewish victims, only a deli and randomly present folks,” Oren writes.

Oren, a bestselling US-born historian, is writing the pieces to coincide with the publication of “Ally.” Oren also gave a comprehensive interview to The Times of Israel this week in which he discussed his upcoming book at length. He said “Ally” was “a cri de coeur… for an alliance that should be in a much better place than it is.” He also said he wanted to get the book published as soon as possible because “we’re at a crucial juncture now with the Iran issue, and it’s very important to set certain records straight as we go into what could be a fateful period for the State of Israel.”

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