Michael B. Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, did not mince words Tuesday calling out President Barack Obama for how he’s handled relations with Israel.
“I never felt like I was lying when I said it,” Oren wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. “But, in truth, while neither leader monopolized mistakes, only one leader made them deliberately.”
Oren saw huge mistakes from both Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, through the years. The difference, however, is while Netanyahu made missteps, Obama seemed to have purposely made his mistakes in a calculated move to undermine the shared goals of both nations.
“Yet many of Israel’s bungles were not committed by Mr. Netanyahu personally,” Oren noted. “From the moment he entered office, Mr. Obama promoted an agenda of championing the Palestinian cause and achieving a nuclear accord with Iran.”
“Such policies would have put him at odds with any Israeli leader,” he continued. “But Mr. Obama posed an even more fundamental challenge by abandoning the two core principles of Israel’s alliance with America.”
Oren saw a lot during his time as ambassador, lasting a significant portion of the Obama administration. He was appointed by Netanyahu in 2009 but at the time he was not consider part of the prime minister’s inner circle. Rather he was chosen, according to Oren, because of his academic expertise on the United States. In the Fall of 2013, he left the position.
The two main issues Oren feels Obama failed Israel on is an understanding the two nations would never openly share their disagreements and a promise the two nations would never surprise each other. Public displays of disagreement, Oren claimed, resulted in other nations being able to take advantage of Israel.
“Consequently, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas boycotted negotiations, reconciled with Hamas and sought statehood in the U.N.—all in violation of his commitments to the U.S.—but he never paid a price,” he detailed. “By contrast, the White House routinely condemned Mr. Netanyahu for building in areas that even Palestinian negotiators had agreed would remain part of Israel.”
Additionally Obama throughout his time in office took on several policies involving Israel without notifying the country first. Eventually the abandonment of both agreements led to strayed relations and problems through the Iranian nuclear talks.
“The past six years have seen successive crises in U.S.-Israeli relations, and there is a need to set the record straight,” Oren added. “But the greater need is to ensure a future of minimal mistakes and prevent further erosion of our vital alliance.”
Not everyone, however, agrees with Oren. Josh Marshall, editor and publisher for TalkingPointsMemo.com, sees his characterization of mistakes by Netanyahu and purposeful moves by Obama as disingenuous.
“He is well-meaning but unlucky and occasionally hapless,” Marshall stated in an opinion piece. “It’s President Obama who sets out as a matter of policy and design to degrade the bond intentionally and as a matter of considered policy.”
“If Oren believes it is critical for Israel to ‘take responsibility’ and immediately strengthen ties with the White House, as a former ambassador and member of the current government, he’s picked a funny way to go about it,” he added.
Marshall also took issue with Oren for accusing Jewish journalists in the United States for causing problems between the two nations. In his book, “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide,” Oren pointed to The New York Times as one such outlet that was being unfairly critical of Israel.
“Oren now says that one of Israel’s big problems in the United States is Jewish journalists who are so indifferent to their Jewish identity or so self-hating that they lead the charge against Israel in the American public square, in part for professional self-promotion,” Marshall noted.
Despite the criticism for Oren, the White House sees things differently. The administration argues the relationship between the two nations has been strengthened under Obama.
“Under President Obama, the U.S. has led global efforts to defend Israel’s legitimacy on the world stage,” the White House noted. “The President has strongly supported Israel in its quest for peace with its neighbors.”