The fierce reactions to Kulanu MK and former Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren’s evaluation of the Obama administration in his new book, and in particular to three articles he penned titled “How Obama abandoned Israel,” “Why Obama is wrong about Iran being ‘rational’ on nukes” and “How Obama opened his heart to the ‘Muslim world,” were predictable. He has enraged the administration, created enormous anxiety and polarized a situation within the American Jewish community.
Publication coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the administration’s right to overrule a bipartisan congressional decision that required the State Department to allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to designate on their passports that they were born in Israel. Instead, the administration is able to perpetuate its practice of refusing to recognize that the capital Jerusalem is an integral part of Israel.
Oren released his book – already on Amazon’s bestseller list – earlier than scheduled (click here for Amazon link). He hoped that it would impact on Congress and strengthen its resolve if, as appears likely, President Barack Obama continues his path of capitulation toward Iran. Left unblocked, this path will enable Iran – the most dangerous global terrorist entity in the world, which makes no secret of its determination to wipe Israel off the face of the earth – to emerge as a nuclear-armed power.
The decision by Oren to express his damning evaluation of the nature and motivations of Obama’s diplomatic abandonment of Israel, without inhibitions, stunned all who had either been engaged or followed events in the Middle East. Until now, much of what Oren outlined has been discussed quietly in Jewish quarters, but by and large, the community’s leaders preferred to bury their heads in the sand and declined to publicly express their apprehensions.
Oren made it clear that Obama maintained and even strengthened the defense relationship with Israel. But, notwithstanding a few exceptions such as statements he made at the United Nations and during his visit to Israel, from the day of his inauguration he systematically pursued his objective to create daylight between Israel and the United States in order to build bridges with the Islamic world. Oren stressed that while “nobody has a monopoly on making mistakes” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Obama made mistakes, it was Obama who deliberately acted to weaken and “jettison” the relationship.
Oren cites chapter and verse of Obama’s humiliation of Netanyahu and his double standards in continuing to condemn Israel and not even once confront the PA and Abbas, thus reinforcing Palestinian extremism and encouraging their intransigency and refusal to compromise. He points to Obama’s use of the word “appalling” in reference to Israel’s activity in the last Gaza war, and his chilling delay of arms shipments to the IDF during the war.
He notes that Obama does not even accuse those who perpetrated the murderous attack on the kosher delicatessen in Paris of engaging in anti-Semitism, preferring to condemn them as “vicious zealots who … randomly shot a bunch of folks in a deli.” In his Foreign Policy article, Oren speculates that Obama’s abandonment by his mother’s Muslim husbands prompted him in his later life to seek acceptance from their coreligionists.
The response from the administration was, predictably, one of outrage. There were demands for apologies and Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, who effectively called Oren a liar, requested Netanyahu to condemn and dissociate himself from the remarks. The prime minister’s response was that Oren was not speaking on behalf of the government and that he did not intend to comment.
Netanyahu has been treated far more shabbily by Obama and his administration than any leader of a rogue state. Only a few months ago, he was described as “chickenshit” by senior personnel, and former senior peace negotiator Ambassador Martin Indyk has repeatedly slandered and debased him. However, at no stage did we hear any repudiation by Obama of these constant vile attacks on a purported ally.
Under pressure from Shapiro, some ministers dissociated themselves and even condemned Oren. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the head of Oren’s Kulanu party, criticized Oren and perhaps went overboard when he reaffirmed his “sincere appreciation for President Obama’s efforts to stand by Israel and defend its interests.” There was also criticism from Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.
Although the administration has bitterly condemned Oren and accused him of distorting reality, there has been a distinct absence of articles refuting him – for the simple reason that the facts he presented cannot be denied. In fact, Democrat Alan Dershowitz has explicitly endorsed Oren’s view that the Obama administration deliberately sought to damage the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
Needless to say, the liberals are now up in arms, shrieking against an ambassador whom they admired and considered had been appointed to the post because of his liberal inclinations. He published articles in the left-wing media and the liberal Jewish weekly The Forward named him as one of the five most influential American Jews in the world. He campaigned vigorously against Netanyahu before the election. Even now he expresses the hope that Hillary Clinton will be elected as the next U.S. president. It is therefore impossible to write him off as a right-winger.
The most consistent rebuttal of Oren by the administration and liberals are pathetic attempts to personally besmirch him as a hedonist and opportunist willing to sell his soul to promote sales of his book to conservative Republicans who despise their president.
The greatest impact, which has yet to be fully assessed, is within the Jewish community. Oren does not mince words about his abhorrence with the manner in which certain Jewish “liberals” in the administration and media, such as Thomas Friedman and Leon Wieseltier, have goaded Obama to toughen his attitude toward Israel.
I predict that when the dust settles, nothing will change with the far-Left liberals whose veneration of Obama is almost messianic. But among more open-minded pro-Israel Democrats, Oren is likely to have a profound impact and will hopefully encourage some of them to review their position. The conservatives will of course claim that they were always on the right side of the angels and that Oren is merely stating what they have been saying for years.
What is more important is what impact Oren’s public revelations will have on the Jewish leaders. Many of them are deeply distressed by Oren’s outbursts. As of now, aside from the Anti-Defamation League’s retiring chief, Abe Foxman, dismissing Oren’s views as “conspiracy theories with an element of pseudo psychoanalysis,” little is being publicly said, but there is undoubtedly intense discussion taking place behind the scenes.
Many claim that this will drive the administration into a frenzy and intensify the anti-Israeli diplomatic moves. There is a case for this attitude but surely – especially in light of the additional revelations by Oren – quietly sitting on the sidelines has proven to be and remains the wrong approach. Now albeit belatedly, is the time to speak up, promoting the case for Israel and respectfully, honestly and publicly rebutting Obama’s distorted and one-sided approach.
Hopefully it will strengthen and unite the committed Jewish community, and it may even have a major positive impact on Congress as the Iranian capitulation policy comes to a head. For many Americans and congressmen the revelations of Oren will come as a shock to them.
It is too early to tell, but Oren’s intervention may have long-term positive repercussions impacting on the balance of Obama’s term of office as well as long-standing American policy. We can only pray that will be the outcome.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom