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Oren: Netanyahu’s Iran anxieties misread as election interference

JTA

December 12, 2012 | 2:01 pm

Michael Oren. Photo by Anne Mandlebaum

Michael Oren. Photo by Anne Mandlebaum

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pleadings regarding the Iranian nuclear threat were misinterpreted as interfering in the U.S. election, Israel's ambassador to Washington said.

"One of the great challenges we faced was that everything in this country was seen through the prism of election, whereas everything in Israel was seen through the prism of an Iranian nuclear threat," Amb. Michael Oren said Tuesday at a meeting with journalists, in remarks reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. "So every time there was some statement here made about the nature of the Iranian nuclear threat, and the prime minister responded and expressed Israel's interest and Israel's perspective, it was immediately misinterpreted here as sort of an illicit attempt to interfere in American political politics, and it wasn't true, it wasn't true."

In a widely discussed remark at a Sept. 11 press conference, Netanyahu had said: "Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel." His words were widely perceived as a criticism of the Obama administration and drew public rebukes from Democrats, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Oren had been asked about comments made last week by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff, who suggested that Netanyahu had interfered in the U.S. elecution.

Oren declined to respond directly because Emanuel's comments had been leaked from an off-the-record session at a conference for U.S. and Israeli policymakers.

However, the ambassador made clear his frustration with how both parties appropriated Netanyahu as an unwitting surrogate.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu went to extraordinary lengths not to be dragged into the U.S. political elections," Oren said. "And here, both parties put out film clips on YouTube that attempted to harness Israel and Israeli leaders into the political situation here. We went to great lengths to keep out of it."

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