Michael Oren, former ambassador to the US and soon a new parliamentary member, stressed the need to rebuild and strengthen the US-Israel relationship.
By Atara Beck
Senior Writer, United with Israel
The “statement by the President of the United States regarding the deterioration of Israeli democracy strategically damages Israel’s standing in the world,” former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren declared on Sunday.
Oren, a soon-to-be Member of Knesset (Israel’s parliament), was reacting to US President Barack Obama’s interview on Saturday with the Huffington Post, in which he suggested that there was a deterioration in Israel’s democracy. Obama was referring to Netanyahu’s statements prior to Israeli national elections last week, in which the Israeli leader said that no Palestinian state would be established under his watch as well as warning that droves of Arabs were being bused out to the polls and, therefore, Israeli nationalists should be sure to vote for him.
In fact, Netanyahu was concerned because the Victory 2015 (V15) campaign – organized by Obama’s national campaign field director in 2012 – and other NGOs well-funded from abroad were meddling in the Israeli elections, working to unseat the prime minister. “If we do not wake up, if we do not bring everyone out…a left-wing government will be established,” Netanyahu warned on election day.
He emerged as the clear winner, vowing that his Likud party will lead a strong nationalist government. Following his reelection, he clarified that he believed conditions were not ripe for the creation of a Palestinian state, considering the weak Palestinian leadership and the spread of radical Islamic terror throughout the region.
“I said that the implementation of that vision is not relevant right now,” Netanyahu said in a post-election TV interview with NPR , citing “the decision of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority last year to forge a pact with Hamas” as well as the rising instability in the region – for instance, the Syrian civil war, ISIS and Iranian control over Gaza.
“I don’t want a one-state solution. But I certainly don’t want a zero-state solution, a no-state solution, where Israel’s very existence would be jeopardized. And that’s what the people of Israel overwhelmingly elected me to do,” he asserted.
It is an open secret that Obama was disappointed by the election results. It took him until Thursday to call Netanyahu, but the 30-minute discussion, rather than a message of congratulations, was in essence a lecture in which the president said that the US “will need to reassess” the situation. Media reports suggest that Obama may support a Palestinian state at the UN in retaliation.
“I did indicate to him that we continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel, if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic,” Obama said in the Huffington Post interview. “And I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible.”
Furthermore, “although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly. And I think that that is what’s best about Israeli democracy. If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also I think starts to erode the name of democracy in the country.”
Israel – a Strategic Asset to America
Commenting on Obama’s interview, Oren, a member of the new Kulanu party, stated: “Instead of being distracted by damaging comments, the United States and Israel must focus on rebuilding and strengthening their relationship, with the understanding that just as America is a strategic asset to Israel, so, too, is Israel is a strategic asset to America. There is no replacement for Israel as America’s strongest ally in the Middle East.
“Israel, as the only stable democracy in the Middle East, is one of the few countries in the world that has never known a day of non-democratic rule. It is the only country in the Middle East in which every citizen has the right to vote, even for political parties who do not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“Israel’s new government must immediately take the initiative to repair our relationship with the United States and continue to strengthen the military, intelligence and diplomatic ties that are strategically essential for Israel.”