Friday, July 17, 2015

Ally by Michael B. Oren

The former ambassador to the US has written a very engaging sensitive memoir of his days in office. It can be characterized as an odyssey about a man growing up in NJ absorbing all the great values of America, loving America and synthesizing those ideals with a Jewish upbringing culminating in being inspired to make Aliyah after the 6 Day War in 67 through the inspired leadership of Yitzchak Rabin. Being an American and a Zionist for Mr. Oren implies no contradiction.  He sees the only democracy in the Middle East as a kindred spirit of the USA.

Mr. Oren recounts his tumultuous tenure with the tools of a historian (his histories of the 6 day War and America's involvement in the Middle East - Power Faith and Fantasy are outstanding historical contributions) and the sensitivity of one who truly loves the USA.  He recounts how traumatic was the punching of his US Passport symbolizing the irrevocable step of renouncing his US citizenship.
But what makes this contribution significant, I believe, is his attitude towards the US president. Instead of dismissing the President as biased against Israel, Mr. Oren believes that the president believes in the Jewish state but rather forcefully disagrees with the policies of the Likud party and its head, Benjamin Netanyahu. He constantly gives the president the benefit of the doubt when the situation presents itself.  The recent trashing of the book in the press by the President's acolytes belie reading it.  The dismissals of the book are totally off base and misplaced.  The shouting against the book probably testifies to the book's truth. 

The conclusions of the book are troubling.  Mr.Oren squarely places the disagreements and deterioration in the relationship with Mr. Obama.  His tough stance and style with demanding the Israelis freeze settlements that include most of modern Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods for any Israeli government prove difficult.  Mr. Oren claims that the relationship that always implied openness and no surprises changed to Israel being ignored even when its security was at stake like the secret talks engaging Iran.  The Israelis, according to Mr. Oren continue to wonder how knowledgeable or naive are the Americans in understanding how the Middle East ticks! Mr. Abbas was hardly nudged; the lionshare of pushing was against Israel.

Mr. Oren also is troubled by the erosion of American Jewish support of the Jewish State.  Despite the growing support of the non Jewish population in America there seems to be an ever growing divide between American Jews and Israelis.  What once was axiomatic support is now mired with disdain for policies that liberal Jews can not countenance. So called 'settlement activity' is called by the American Jewish community an impediment to peace, however, Arab irredentism is completely ignored!  J Street claims to be pro Israel and Pro Palestinian but one would be hard pressed to cite one pro Israel position!

With a signed Iranian deal that seems to allow nuclear threshold status, Israel must evaluate its next move carefully.  Seeing red lines erode and promises stretched do not bolster confidence in the alliance between the USA and Israel.  The book is a well written engaging romp about diplomacy. Mr. Oren has a great grasp of history and has peppered his memoir with great analogies and insights. He is very aware of the present US policy of disengagement, dissociation and outreach to the Muslim world.  It's a must read in understanding what is happening before our eyes.


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