The US-Israel Relationship Today: Historical and Personal Perspectives

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Bechtel Conference Center
Speaker: 
  • Michael B. Oren

A graduate of Princeton and Columbia, Dr. Oren has received fellowships from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, and from the British and Canadian governments. Formerly, he was the Lady Davis Fellow of Hebrew University, a Moshe Dayan Fellow at Tel-Aviv University, and the Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown.

Ambassador Oren has written extensively for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The New Republic, where he was a contributing editor. His two most recent books, Six Days of War: June 1967 and The Making of the Modern Middle East and Power, Faith, and Fantasy:  America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, were both New York Times bestsellers. They won the Los Angeles Times’ History Book of the Year prize, a National Council of the Humanities Award, and the National Jewish Book Award.

Raised in New Jersey, where he was an activist in Zionist youth movements and a gold medal winning athlete in the Maccabia Games, Ambassador Oren moved to Israel in the 1970s. He served as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, in the paratroopers in the Lebanon War, a liaison with the U.S. Sixth Fleet during the Gulf War, and an IDF spokesman during the Second Lebanon War and the recent Gaza operation.  He acted as an Israeli emissary to Jewish refuseniks in the Soviet Union, as an advisor to Israel’s delegation to the United Nations, and as the government’s director of Inter-Religious Affairs. He has testified before Congress and briefed the White House on Middle Eastern affairs.

Ambassador Oren is married to Sally, and they have three children—Yoav, Lia, and Noam.

 

Audio Synopsis:

Ambassador Oren begins by tracing the history of the US-Israel relationship, which he spent several decades researching as a historian prior to being appointed Ambassador. He notes that the United States and Israel have long maintained a spiritual and democratic connection, augmented in 1967 by a strategic/military relationship following the Six Days War.

Ambassador Oren was appointed in July 2009, six months in to the Obama administration. He cites three initial areas of disagreement between the current Israeli and American administrations: strategies for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons; settlement freezes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; and the logistics of a two-state solution. Oren feels that these points of disjuncture have largely been overcome through close cooperation and an ongoing dialogue.  Agreements have been reached, for example, on the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints, a ten-month moratorium on West Bank construction, and the imposition of sanctions on Iran.

In conclusion, Ambassador Oren offers an optimistic outlook for the future of U.S.-Israel relations, pointing out Israel's close economic and trade partnership with the United States in addition to its strategic and ideological partnerships. He asserts that the idea of America is indivisible from the idea of a recreated Jewish state.

A question and answer session addressed such topics as the likelihood of success of sanctions against Iran; what alternatives are available if sanctions fail; whether Medvedev's administration has been more willing to engage with Israel than was Putin's administration; how problems with the Palestinian education system are being addressed by Israel; and how an independent, demilitarized Palestine might change Israel's relationship with other Middle Eastern countries.

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