Kahlon Renounces Michael Oren's Claims That Obama 'Abandoned' Israel

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Moshe Kahlon and Michael Oren.Credit: Rami Shllush

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Wednesday repudiated an article by MK Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington, which accused U.S. President Barack Obama of deliberately abandoning Israel.

Kahlon, head of the Kulanu Party, sent a letter to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro expressing deep appreciation for Obama and saying that Oren’s piece did not speak for himself or Kulanu, of which Oren is a member.

Kahlon had received an telephone call from Shapiro on Tuesday sharply protesting against Oren’s article in the Wall Street Journal that morning, Haaretz learned Wednesday. Oren wrote that Obama had deliberately abandoned Israel from the time he entered the White House in 2008.

Shapiro asked Kahlon to clarify whether Oren’s piece represented his and his party’s positon.

After talking to Shapiro, Kahlon summoned Oren for a talk. During the conversation, Oren made it clear to Kahlon that he had no intention of apologizing for the claims he made in the article. “I don’t have a problem with you condemning me in public, but that is my truth” he said to Kahlon. The letter to Shapiro was sent following the meeting.

Channel 2 first reported on the letter's existence, but Haaretz was able to obtain the letter itself.

“I always believed that the close and intimate relationship between the U.S. and Israel and U.S. support to Israel on the Security and International arena are the greatest assets of my country and a major component in Israel’s National Security,” Kahlon wrote.

When he read the reports about Oren’s book, especially the parts that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, he realized they could be controversial, he wrote. He therefore wished to clarify that Oren had written his book long before he joined Kulanu or was even considered by Kahlon as a candidate for its Knesset ticket.

The book “is a personal memoir” reflecting Oren’s personal point of view during his term as ambassador in Washington, Kahlon wrote.

“I was always very candid and vocal expressing my deep and sincere appreciation for President Obama’s efforts to stand by Israel and defend its interestsI hope you find the proper way to convey my message to your administration and the American people and hope the relations between our countries will continue to grow,” Kahlon wrote.

The White House first considered responding to Oren’s article with a sharply worded statement at Tuesday’s press briefing, but ultimately decided to have Shapiro issue a more restrained statement. 

Meanwhile, Shapiro slammed Oren in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday, saying his claims about Obama “don’t reflect the truth” and were meant to boost sales of his memoir.

“Michael Oren published an imaginary account of what happened,” Shapiro said. “I disagree with what he wrote. He was an ambassador in the past, but he is now a politician and an author who wants to sell books.”

“Sometimes an ambassador has a limited point of view into ongoing efforts. What he wrote does not reflect the truth,” he said.

In his opinion piece Oren wrote that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama made mistakes that damaged the ties between the two countries, but only the latter 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.

In it he claimed that Obama had 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.

Oren further states that Obama “was never anti-Israel” and has bolstered the security cooperation between the two countries. However, he asserts 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.”

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