Monday, June 15, 2015

15-Jun-15: Trust us! Some stunning insights into an evolving alliance

An important new book, a memoir by Prof. Michael Oren who served as Israel's ambassador to the US between May 2009 and September 2013, is getting media coverage this week. His vantage point as both an insider and a noted historian at a time of huge importance is an invaluable one.

It's worth noting that, unlike some other key ambassadorial appointments, Oren did not get the job through his being close to prime minister Netanyahu. In fact, as far as we can tell, he's never been regarded as a Netanyahu crony. Nor has he been associated with especially robust viewpoints about the US/Israel relationship. Until now.

He calls "Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide", to be published next Tuesday, a book written "with love — and fear." He's not kidding.

We have not read it (it's not yet available in the stores) but were struck some things said by the author and his reviewer in an article by Gary Rosenblatt in the current issue of The Jewish Week NY. Under the title "No Way To Treat An Ally", it's (in the newspaper's words) a "devastating insider’s account of White House distancing from Israel." Some selected verbatim quotes:
  • As he notes in his foreword, “‘ally’ is a simple, beautiful word” that evokes “warmth,” fitting for the “special relationship,” said to exist between Israel and the U.S. But that relationship also includes “bitter differences,” he reminds us at the outset. And much of the next 375 pages is a carefully recalled, detailed and riveting first-hand account of how the Washington-Jerusalem ties have unraveled — undone by mistrust, mistakes and missed opportunities — with Obama in the role of bully-in-chief.
  • There are major confrontations, like over settlements and peace talks, and seemingly minor slights, like the president’s omission of Israel in noting countries that came to Haiti’s aid after a devastating earthquake. (The Israeli emergency delegation was one of the largest and the first to arrive on the scene fully prepared.) There is the ring of authenticity in ominous warnings about the consequences of bucking the administration from Obama’s foul-mouthed chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, whom Oren liked, and in his dealing with National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones, who “often seemed ill-disposed toward Israel.”
  • The cumulative effect is profound — a steady drumbeat of behind-the-scenes examples of diplomatic dissonance. Oren, charged with maintaining a positive public façade regarding the “unbreakable and unshakeable” U.S.-Israel alliance, is privately seething over the administration’s treatment of his country — politically and diplomatically — as less ally than obstacle.
  • Repeatedly, he describes how Israel is blamed for the lack of progress on the peace front while the Palestinians are given a pass.
  • He has a clear message for American Jews, particularly in light of the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran: “Remember that American Jewry once had a chance to save six million Jews,” Oren said somberly. “And there are six million today [in Israel]. So think very hard” and understand that “this is about our survival as a people. It’s about our children and grandchildren.”
  • Oren doesn’t say that the president is anti-Israel. Rather, “Obama is pro-Israel — but his is a certain mythical, pre-1967 Israel that never really existed,” he said, a time when the state was “less democratic, less open, less respectful of minorities.”
  • [Israel] in the eyes of the administration... is a country out of step with American interests. Oren writes that the president’s foreign policy priorities included “creating a Palestinian state, reconciling with Islam, and preventing nuclear proliferation. "All three," he noted, "intersected with Israel’s interests, and in potentially abrasive ways."
The article is disturbing in ways that transcend (in our view) the genuinely-horrific daily reports from today's Syria, Iraq, Yemen, because as tragic and awful as the reality of those Arab-on-Arab slaughter-yards are, no one sane is trying to dress them up or justify them.
Editorial page in this past Saturday's New
York Post [here]

But on the intertwined issues of Iran and Israel, we are as dumbfounded as ever by the deep well-springs of public opinion that Obama's promoters keep succeeding to plumb. Most painful of all to us, and puzzling, is the understanding they seem to have tapped into among America's Jews:
  • [Oren] cited Obama’s “credibility problem” in the Mideast, noting America’s lack of success throughout the region, including Iraq, Syria and Yemen. “But on this one vital issue,” the nuclear agreement with Iran, “they’re saying ‘trust us,’” he said. “First they [the administration] told us all options are on the table,” he continued, “and now they’re saying there never was a military option. This deal is not just a bad one, it is singularly dangerous, and it is our duty and right to speak out. And as an IDF war veteran whose son [in the IDF] was wounded, I am deeply offended when we are cast as warmongers.”
Not just bad but singularly dangerous. As well-informed as an insider's comment gets to be, it's simply stunning that this one refers to the actions of the Obama White House.

[Postscript: If you are going to order the Oren book, or anything else, from Amazon, please know that if you do that via AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to The Malki Foundation. Bookmark this link and support this worthwhile, efficient and constructive cause every time you shop.]

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