Commentary Magazine


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Oren’s Interview

Michael Oren has given yet another interview. One never knows whether to expect the Candid Oren or the Obama-Ingratiating Oren. His job requires a measure of both and to date he’s not been all that successful in balancing the two. This time he gives us some candor — suggesting that the Obama team will see things Israel’s way once it acquires more experience, pointing the finger at Democrats in Congress who have turned anti-Israel (in contrast to an earlier interview, in which he chastised critics of Obama’s Israel policy) and acknowledging that sanctions may actually spur Iran to step up its “proxy war on Israel and on the West.” He tells us that at the next meeting of Bibi with Obama there will be plenty of photographers to remove the perception of “snubbery” — which reminds us all that snubbery was the order of the day at the last get together.

But it is clear that Oren must walk on eggshells. The shift in U.S. policies, he insists, has both “positive and negative consequences.” (What are the positive ones? Hmm. He doesn’t say.) And he confesses that he has neither asked nor been told whether the U.S. would block a UN effort to launch its own flotilla investigation. If you have to ask, it’s not a good sign, certainly.

It is hard for even the most skilled diplomatist to disguise the truth: the U.S.-Israel relationship is more frosty than at any time in recent memory — and the Israelis are hoping (at least in public) that inexperience, rather than animus, accounts for Obama’s conduct toward the Jewish state. Israel, no doubt, is working hard on plans to defuse the existential threat it faces, since betting on Obama to come through is a gamble no Israeli government can undertake.