By J. Zel Lurie
His Excellency Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, hosted a dinner recently for leaders of the Democratic Party. Guest of honor was Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Among the Democratic big shots attending was Marc R. Stanley, a Texas attorney and founding chairman of the Democratic Jewish Council.
We are indebted to Mr. Stanley for his report in the Huffington Post of Ambassador Oren’s remarks at the dinner.
The ambassador could not sing praise for Obama any higher. He ranked Obama with President Harry Truman, who overrode his Secretary of State in 1948 to recognize the newly born Israel, and with President Richard Nixon, who instituted an airlift to supply Israel during the Yom Kippur war.
Ambassador Oren blasted those who have been falsely attacking Obama for partisan advantage. His message has slowed the barrage of anti-Obama diatribes which have filled the internet lately, including Alan Dershowitz, Ronald Lauder and Ed Koch.
The ambassador told a shocking story of an imagined snub of Netanyahu by Obama which many Israelis believe. Here is what really happened.
When Netanyahu was in Washington in March, he and Ambassador Oren and an entourage of experts called on Obama for a business meeting which lasted into the night. At a business meeting, the ambassador related, the visiting head of state is not ceremoniously met under the portico. Reporters are not called out of the press room and there are no photo-ops.
Netanyahu and his party entered the White House through the business entrance. They talked with Obama and other officials for several hours and after the president had retired they were given the rare privilege, the ambassador reported, of staying in the White House to finish their work.
Ambassador Oren described how shocked he was when he woke the next morning to find the Israel press had large headlines on the “vicious snub” that their prime minister had suffered at the White House, how he had been snuck in via a back door and how reporters and photographers had been forbidden.
Meanwhile, concludes the Israeli envoy, “President Obama is working relentlessly to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and to promote peace in Israel.”
Peace in Israel, as most Israelis have recognized, depends on achieving a two-state solution. And a two-state solution depends on the success of the proximity talks that have begun under the aegis of George Mitchell.
Most Israelis believe that proximity talks are second best to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. As sop to the Israelis, the State Department, in its May 9 announcement of the beginning of the proximity talks said that they would lead to direct talks.
Peace between Israel and Palestine will not happen without deep sacrifices by both parties. These difficult compromises will come easier in three-way proximity talks than in face-to-face direct talks.
Direct talks, which have always been Israel’s preference, will come eventually but not for many many months. Not until George Mitchell and his boss, Hillary Clinton, and her boss, Barack Obama, are convinced that Mitchell and Netanyahu and Mitchell and Abbas, have solved all the insoluble core issues, borders, Jerusalem and refugees.
Mitchell will not be just shuttling between the parties as the New York Times put it. Mitchell will be discussing, arguing, putting forth new ideas and bridging proposals to both parties.
The talks will continue into 2011 and possibly into 2012. Success will help elect Obama to a second term.
But success will depend on both parties refraining from what the State Department called “significant actions” that would seriously undermine trust and endanger the talks.
Palestine Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has already said that he will refrain from announcing a Palestine State in August of next year as he had planned. But Netanyahu has not as yet announced that the ten month freeze will be extended.
It will come. Meanwhile Obama has asked Congress for another $200 million for Israel to help them deploy the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Israel’s security depends on averting possible missiles from Iran and its agents, Hezbollah and Hamas.
As Mr. Anthony quoted Ambassador Oren: “The friendship between the United States and Israel remains rock solid.”