Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Michael Oren: Obama Abandoned Israel

The Knesset member writes a Wall Street Journal piece accusing Obama of deliberately damaging U.S.-Israel ties.

Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Michael Oren.
Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Michael Oren. Bloomberg

Former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, who is currently serving in the Knesset, accused President Barak Obama on Tuesday of abandoning Israel since coming to the White House in 2008.

In an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, Oren wrote that both Netanyahu and Obama made mistakes that damaged the ties between the two countries over the past six years, but charged that the U.S. president did so "deliberately."

Oren penned the article, titled "How Obama Abandoned Israel," as part of a campaign to promote his new memoir about his service as Israel's ambassador to Washington, between 2009-2013.

He claimed that Obama has forsaken the two key principles in the ties between Israel and the U.S.: avoiding public discord and the commitment on the part of both sides not to surprise each other with policy changes.

In the piece, Oren notes that the only mistake that Netanyahu made on purpose was addressing the U.S. Congress two weeks before the Israeli elections. But he stresses that even this error came in response to mistakes Obama made since entering the White House. According to Oren, the announcements made with regard to settlement construction, including the incident that caused a crisis during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel in 2010, were made by midlevel officials without Netanyahu's knowledge, and caught the prime minister off guard.  

Oren writes that Obama "was never anti-Israel" and has bolstered the security cooperation between the two countries. However, he states that "immediately after his first inauguration, Mr. Obama put daylight between Israel and America." Oren quotes statements Obama allegedly made to Jewish leaders in 2009: “When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines and that erodes our credibility with the Arabs.”

Oren accuses Obama of ignoring the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and its implications, and the peace offers Israel put forth in 2000 and 2008, which were rejected by the Palestinians. He further claims that Obama voided the commitment that President George W. Bush made to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, that the major settlement blocs would remain a part of Israel in any future peace agreements. Instead, Obama insisted on a construction moratorium across the settlements.  

Oren adds that Obama hasn't demanded a thing from the Palestinians since coming to office. Despite the fact that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "violated all of his commitments," Oren writes, "he never paid a price."

"By contrast, the White House routinely condemned Mr. Netanyahu for building," Oren says. 

The former ambassador claims that Obama had forsaken the commitment to "no surprises" by "abruptly" demanding during his first meeting with Netanyahu in May 2009 that Israel freeze settlement construction and accept the two-state solution. He furthers posits that Obama caught Netanyahu off guard with his Cairo speech in June 2009. According to Oren, unlike his predecessors, Obama did not consult Netanyahu before making the speech and did not give the Israeli prime minister a copy of the address ahead of time to allow him to make comments.

Furthermore, Oren says that Obama abandoned a 40-year-old U.S. policy in May 2011 when he endorsed the 1967 lines with land swaps as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace. "If Mr. Netanyahu appeared to lecture the president the following day, it was because he had been assured by the White House, through me, that no such change would happen," he writes.

Oren's article includes accusations that Obama "stunned" Israel when he offered to sponsor a UN Security Council investigation of the settlements, and when he supported Egyptian and Turkish efforts to expose Israel's nuclear secrets.

Oren also says Obama surprised Israel when he entered secret talks with Iran without briefing Netanyahu.

"'The talks resulted in an interim agreement that the great majority of Israelis considered a 'bad deal' with an irrational, genocidal regime. Mr. Obama, though, insisted that Iran was a rational and potentially 'very successful regional power,'" Oren writes.

He further claims that many Israelis were shocked when, after hearing from Obama time and again that “he 'had their backs' and  'was not bluffing' about the military option," they watched him saying in a Channel 2 interview that a military solution can't fix the Iranian threat.