New York Times: Israel's U.S. Ambassador Caught in Middle of Obama, Netanyahu

Amid tension between Israel and the U.S. over drawing 'red lines' on Iran, Michael Oren is described as the official in charge of damage control who 'always finds an open door in Washington.'

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Amid what has already been labeled a new low in U.S.-Israeli relations over drawing "red lines" on Iran, the New York Times published an article on Tuesday depicting the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, as the official whose task is to maintain contact between two administrations whose positions are "adversarial."

In an unprecedented public verbal attack on U.S. policy last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the U.S. administration's stance on the Iranian nuclear program, saying that those "who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have the moral right to place a red light before Israel." Netanyahu's comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration has no intention to make such a public commitment.

According to the article, entitled "Israeli Diplomat is Man in Middle," friends of Oren said that although frustrated, he is still focused on his job, dealing with damage control, and - unlike his predecessors - spends long hours with reporters, makes television appearances and speaks at public events. However, his message concerning Iran is still coordinated with the Netanyahu government.

Denying having a tough day due to Netanyahu's remarks, Oren was quoted as saying that "You want to know a tough day? There are days when rockets are falling on a southern Israeli city. There are days when you’re worried about unconventional weaponry getting into the wrong hands, when hundreds of lives are at stake."

"The last thing we want is war," Oren told the New York Times. Regarding Netanyahu's harsh words, Oren said: "If we can avoid war by raising international consciousness about the nature of the Iranian threat, then we’re fulfilling our responsibility.”

Refusing to answer whether Netanyahu is serious about striking Iran's nuclear facilities, Oren only denied that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has changed his mind and now opposes military action, as was reported earlier this month by Haaretz.

Oren also tried to downplay an incident that took place last month, where Netanyahu reprimanded U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro over the U.S. policy on Iran at a meeting in Jerusalem.

Shapiro, Oren said, had "presented the Obama administration's position – compellingly," and Netanyahu merely "conveyed Israel's position – compellingly." According to Oren he was not surprised by the interaction between the two. "I found it refreshing," Oren said, "It didn’t shock me at all. But that’s me. Listen, I’m a veteran of a lot of this stuff.”

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Credit: AFP



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