Former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s new book is shocking not just for its attack on Jewish journalists, but for its statement of a principle binding the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel: Never “surprise” the partner with a policy change. According to that principle, President Obama was supposed to brief Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before he entered into secret talks with Iran and supposed to share his June 2009 Cairo speech to the Arab world with Netanyahu ahead of time to get his comments. And he didn’t do either.
So all our foreign policy in the Middle East has to run through Jerusalem first, per Oren. Whatever happened to that quaint idea, the national interest?
And Obama also blindsided Netanyahu when he “abruptly” asked him to freeze settlements and commit to the two-state solution during their first meeting a month earlier! Talk about going too fast on your first date!
Oren, an American who gave up his citizenship to serve Israel, published an excerpt of the book titled, “How Obama Abandoned Israel,” in the Wall Street Journal. Haaretz has picked it up, with these excerpts.
The former ambassador claims that Obama had forsaken the commitment to “no surprises” by “abruptly” demanding during his first meeting with Netanyahu in May 2009 that Israel freeze settlement construction and accept the two-state solution. He furthers posits that Obama caught Netanyahu off guard with his Cairo speech in June 2009. According to Oren, unlike his predecessors, Obama did not consult Netanyahu before making the speech and did not give the Israeli prime minister a copy of the address ahead of time to allow him to make comments.
Furthermore, Oren says that Obama abandoned a 40-year-old U.S. policy in May 2011 when he endorsed the 1967 lines with land swaps as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace. “If Mr. Netanyahu appeared to lecture the president the following day, it was because he had been assured by the White House, through me, that no such change would happen,” he writes.
Oren’s article includes accusations that Obama “stunned” Israel when he offered to sponsor a UN Security Council investigation of the settlements, and when he supported Egyptian and Turkish efforts to expose Israel’s nuclear secrets.
Oren also says Obama surprised Israel when he entered secret talks with Iran without briefing Netanyahu.
“‘The talks resulted in an interim agreement that the great majority of Israelis considered a ‘bad deal’ with an irrational, genocidal regime. Mr. Obama, though, insisted that Iran was a rational and potentially ‘very successful regional power,'” Oren writes.
So the 47 Republican Senators who wrote the so-called traitor letter to Iranian leaders questioning Obama’s power to cut a deal were honoring the US-Israeli understanding, as I read Oren.
I was sitting in the hall in Cairo when Obama gave his speech, titled “A New Beginning,” and the Egyptian students were thrilled. The president said point blank that the settlements must stop:
The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
He referred to the humiliations of occupation:
For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
So he had to run this all by Netanyahu first? It never would have seen the light of day.
No wonder when Obama got seasoned, i.e., when he met with American Jewish leaders and studied a second principle of the relationship that Oren invokes, keep all disagreements private, Obama later vetoed a resolution against settlements in the Security Council, in 2011, and then in 2012 insisted that the Democratic platform include a plank calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel. But no doubt Obama has bridled against this pact again and again. As he should; it’s a check on our sovereignty.
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro says Oren is fabricating his story. The U.S. has never abandoned Israel!
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro slammed Knesset Member Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, for his opinion piece in which he accused U.S. President Barak Obama of deliberately abandoning Israel.
“Michael Oren published an imaginary account of what happened,” Shapiro said in a Hebrew-language interview with Army Radio. “I disagree with what he wrote. He was an ambassador in the past, but he is now a politician and an author who wants to sell books. Sometimes an ambassador has a limited point of view into ongoing efforts. What he wrote does not reflect the truth.”
That story also broke in Haaretz.
And what is the New York Times telling you about the Oren book? That it shows that an Israeli minister came up with the brilliant idea of getting rid of Assad’s chemical stockpiles through diplomacy.