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Ex-Ambassador Michael Oren: Obama 'Deliberately' Abandoned Israel

Ex-Ambassador Michael Oren: Obama 'Deliberately' Abandoned Israel
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By    |   Tuesday, 16 June 2015 08:57 AM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama are both guilty of making mistakes in the way they've handled the relationship between the two countries, but the president is more to blame for deliberately damaging U.S.-Israel relations, said Michael Oren.

In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, the former Israeli ambassador makes the case that the president deliberately violated two key principles at the heart of the understanding between the two countries: "no daylight" and "no surprises."

"'Nobody has a monopoly on making mistakes.' When I was Israel's ambassador to the United States from 2009 to the end of 2013, that was my standard response to reporters asking who bore the greatest responsibility — President Barack Obama or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — for the crisis in U.S.-Israel relations," Oren wrote.

"I never felt like I was lying when I said it. But, in truth, while neither leader monopolized mistakes, only one leader made them deliberately."

For Israel's part, he noted that on two occasions, Netanyahu blindsided Vice President Joe Biden when announcing the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods and communities. He also "lectured" Obama about the peace process and later was reported to be supporting Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.

And Netanyahu spectacularly criticized Obama's Iran policy before a joint session of Congress.

Nevertheless, Oren said, the president bears more blame for undermining the relationship.

"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. But Mr. Obama posed an even more fundamental challenge by abandoning the two core principles of Israel's alliance with America," Oren wrote.

Obama violated the "no daylight" principle when he openly rejected the principle in a speech in 2009. He told American Jewish leaders, "When there is no daylight Israel just sits on the sidelines and that erodes our credibility with the Arabs."

Oren said that in doing so, Obama ignored Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and two previous offers of Palestinian statehood in Gaza.

He said Obama also rejected President George W. Bush's commitment to include the major settlement blocs and Jewish Jerusalem within Israel's borders in any peace agreement, instead insisting on a total freeze of Israeli construction in those areas.

Oren said the other core principle Obama violated was "no surprises." Obama did so when he abruptly demanded a settlement freeze and Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution and then traveled to the Middle East, skipping Israel, to address the Muslim world from Cairo in 2009.

He also failed to consult Israel in advance of his Cairo speech, he said.

The president also changed 40 years of U.S. policy by backing the 1967 land swaps as the basis for peacemaking.

Meanwhile Israel was also shocked when it heard that Obama offered to sponsor a U.N. Security Council investigation of the settlements, and to support Egyptian and Turkish efforts to force Israel to reveal its alleged nuclear capabilities.

And the abandonment of the two principles climaxed during negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program, he said.

"Now, with the Middle East unraveling and dependable allies a rarity, the U.S. and Israel must restore the 'no daylight' and 'no surprises' principles," Oren wrote. "The past six years have seen successive crises in U.S.-Israeli relations, and there is a need to set the record straight.

"But the greater need is to ensure a future of minimal mistakes and prevent further erosion of our vital alliance."

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama are both guilty of making mistakes in the way they've handled bilateral relations, but the president is more to blame for deliberately damaging U.S.-Israel relations, said former Israeli ambassador...
michael oren, netanyahu, obama, israel, relations
Tuesday, 16 June 2015 08:57 AM
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