Why did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu select Michael Oren as Israel’s next Ambassador to the United States?
That’s a question many among Israel’s political and religious right are asking in the wake of the Princeton-educated historian’s appointment to the country’s most important and high-profile diplomatic post. “He supported the withdrawal from Gaza,“ one leading activist told me. “I think it’s dreadful.“
Oren indeed supported Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and in a speech last month argued that Israel do the same from the West Bank.
“The only alternative for Israel to save itself as a Jewish state is by unilaterally withdrawing from the West Bank and evacuating most of the settlements.“ he told an audience at Georgetown University in March, when he was a visiting professor there.
As Haaretz reported:
Oren said he supported the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. After they started firing Qassam rockets from Gaza, he said Natan Sharansky asked him if the disengagement wasn’t a mistake.
Oren said he replied that it had not been. The mistake was Israel’s failure to react to the Qassam fire, which sent a message of weakness to the entire Middle East.
But while the appointment’s critic blast Netanyahu for the choice, they may also come to realize that he can be just what Israel needs about now: an articulate, appealing and highly intelligent public spokesman for the cause, as the country attempts to marshal American and international support to confront the existential threat that is Iran.
It was this subject that Oren focused on in his speech yesterday at the Aipac convention in Washington: ““Israel will not remain passive while a government that’s sworn to wipe it off the map acquires the means for doing that,“ said Oren of the notion of a nuclear-armed Iran.