Netanyahu Refuses U.S. Request to Disavow Michael Oren's Claims Obama Abandoned Israel

Ambassador Dan Shapiro asked Netanyahu to issue a statement disassociating himself from Oren's remarks, Israeli sources said, to which the prime minister responded that he had no intention of publicly addressing the issue.

Ambassador Ron Dermer

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected an American request to publicly disassociate himself from claims made by former Israeli Ambassador to Washington and current Kulanu MK Michael Oren accusing President Barack Obama of deliberately abandoning Israel, in an op-ed published several days ago in the Wall Street Journal.

Netanyahu told U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro that Oren's comments did not represent the government's position. However, because Oren is not a member of his party, Netanyahu did not see it appropriate to disavow Oren's statements publicly. Netanyahu said he would weigh commenting on the matter in public eventually.

Oren was appointed by Netanyahu in 2009 as Israel’s ambassador to Washington and served in that position until 2013. His piece in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “How Obama Abandoned Israel,” is part of a promotional campaign for his just-published memoir about his years as ambassador. In the article, Oren asserted that Obama abandoned the two main principles in Israel-U.S. relations – avoiding public disagreements (“no daylight”) and “no surprises” in terms of major policy changes.

On Tuesday, a few hours after Oren’s article was published, U.S. Ambassador Shapiro phoned Netanyahu. An Israeli source familiar with their conversation says that Shapiro asked Netanyahu to issue a public statement disavowing Oren’s accusations that Obama deliberately abandoned Israel from the time he entered the White House in 2008.

The source, who wished to remain anonymous since he was not authorized to reveal details to the press, said that Netanyahu turned down Shapiro’s request and said he had no intention of commenting publicly on what Oren wrote.

Shapiro also made a similar request to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, chairman of the Kulanu party of which Oren is a member. Unlike Netanyahu, Kahlon complied with the request. He summoned Oren for a discussion for clarification and subsequently sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador saying that Oren’s comments against Obama do not represent the stance of Kulanu or its leader.

On Tuesday, Haaretz contacted the Prime Minister’s Office with a series of questions on the subject, including, what Netanyahu’s position was on Oren’s serious accusations against Obama.

The Prime Minister’s Office replied that it had no comment. Ambassador Shapiro declined to comment on the content of his conversation with Netanyahu.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry vehemently rejected Oren’s assertions in the Wall Street Journal article. State Department Spokesman John Kirby said in his daily briefing to reporters on Wednesday that Kerry read Oren’s article and believes that his claims against Obama “is absolutely inaccurate and false, and doesn't reflect what actually happened in the past.”

Kirby also said that Kerry thinks that Oren wrote what he did as “a politician trying to promote his book,” adding that, as ambassador, Oren "had limited visibility into many of the private discussions and deliberations that he describes."

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is also strategic affairs, and public diplomacy minister, also voiced harsh criticism over Oren's claims.

"Oren's claims are disconnected from reality," Erdan said on Thursday. "Oren is wrong to accuse President Obama of malicious intentions toward Israel. The president prevents harsh resolutions against Israeli from being passed at the UN, and actively tries to strengthen the security ties between the states. Saying that the president has abandoned Israel is a disconnected remark."