TheDC interview: Michael Oren, Israel’s face in America

Has Obama really lived up to the Bush standard, as outlined by Oren himself?

“I think he’s on that standard,” Oren posited, a point many of Israel’s supporters in the United States would certainly contend with. “Bush had said that the United States, that the relationship between the Israel and the United States was unshakable, unbreakable. He had put that commitment into words with a 10-year memorandum of understanding of $30 billion dollars in military aid. And he had undertaken to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME), which means simply that Israel can defend itself by itself against any Middle Eastern adversary, any combination of Middle Eastern adversaries. These were the historic undertakings that Bush had made. Obama’s held up all of them and QME, on the question of Qualitative Military, he has even gone further and tried to redress some of the imbalance and erosion that has occurred over the years.”

What about the peace process? Hasn’t the Obama administration shown a stunning naïveté, at best, by seemingly making the issue of Israeli settlements the overriding issue in the Middle East, or at the very least in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations? Indeed, Mr. Ambassador, was it not you who hit the nail on the head in that same aforementioned 2008 article when you wrote that, “An Obama presidency … may well launch an entirely new [peace] initiative, one based on zero tolerance for Israeli settlement-building and checkpoints, as well as on the belief that the road to Baghdad and Tehran runs through Bethlehem and Nabulus.”

“That was the article I wrote on McCain and Obama, I invested a lot of energy in that,” Oren said proudly, before saying, “Listen I don’t want to comment on anything I wrote before I got into this job ’cause this is like government service. Once you’re in government service anything you wrote previously is irrelevant.”

He then proceeded to comment on what he wrote previously.

“But the Obama administration made, and the president-elect before made his position on the settlements clear. It’s not a new position, I mean the American administrations going back to Nixon have had problems with settlements,” he explained. “This was very much a doctrine of Obama’s dealing with the Middle East, that linkage, and I want to give it fair voice here, that the United States and its allies could better handle the Iranian nuclear threat if there were peace between Israel and the Arabs — and the Palestinians. Our position was more that unless you deal with the Iranian threat, making peace would be vastly more difficult because the Iranians can stop it at anytime. They can get Hamas to stop it, they can get Hezbollah to stop it.”