The Obama administration’s policy toward Israel and its leaders has hardened Israeli decision makers and hurt the peace process, Israeli lawmaker and former ambassador Michael Oren said.
“Israel will only make concessions to the Palestinians when it feels secure,” Oren told an audience at New York’s Congregation Rodeph Shalom synagogue on Tuesday, promoting his new book called Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, based on his experience as ambassador.
Oren said the lack of daylight between previous administrations and Israeli leaders had allowed former prime ministers to make concessions to the Palestinians, whereas the Obama administration’s reversal of this policy stymied peace efforts.
“Because there was no daylight, Arik Sharon felt empowered to remove Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005,” Oren explained, referring to the late former Israeli prime minister. “And because there was no daylight … [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert was able to offer Palestinian statehood to [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas.” The latter Olmert-Abbas deal would have seen Israel withdraw from 93% of the West Bank in exchange for peace.
“It is in the absence of the principle [of no daylight] that we have not had more progress toward peace,” Oren explained. “When we feel secure that is when we make concessions. When we’re knocked on the head that is when we buckle down.”
The American-born Oren, who was ambassador from 2009-2013, said his “repeated plea to the [Obama] administration always was: try love.”
Both Olmert and Sharon were in office during the former presidency of George W. Bush. About a week ago, Oren wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal that insisted the Obama administration had abandoned two core principles of the U.S.-Israeli relationship: “no daylight” and “no surprises.”
In the WSJ piece, which proved incendiary and even drew an apology from the head of Oren’s Israeli parliamentary party, the former ambassador posited that the Obama administration had intentionally undermined relations with Israel as part of its foreign policy.