Federation Focus: Amb. Oren on the ‘Constellation of Dangers Facing Us’

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. talks Turkey, Egypt, Iran.

(Download this story in Microsoft Word format here.) 

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Credit: Anne Mandlebaum.

At a time when Israel is facing threats from around the Arab World, the country’s ambassador to the U.S. says he relies on his background as a historian to remember that in the past Jews have faced “very trying times indeed,” only to overcome them.

Last Thursday, Amb. Michael Oren spoke on a conference call hosted by the Israel Action Network—an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) that JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman said was formed to “counter the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.” Oren tried to boost morale before the High Holy Days by emphasizing the positive aspects of Israel’s current situation: “Our economy is robust, very robust, our society is vibrant, and our army is committed.”

However, the ambassador spent most of his briefing delving into Israel’s ongoing challenges. Besides for the prevalent issue of the day—unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinians—Oren focused on Egypt, where the Israeli embassy was ransacked by radicals; Iran, where the nuclear program continues to grow; and Turkey, where relations with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan are seriously strained as tensions remain high from the Gaza flotilla incident of 2010.

“We are meeting all these challenges, and yet, it’s true you can wake up in the morning and look around and see the whole constellation of dangers facing us and can seem somewhat overwhelmed,” Oren said.

Here’s what Oren had to say about Israel’s various foreign threats:

Iran

“We must not forget Iran. This is the Iran that has provided 50,000 rockets to Hizbollah in Lebanon, 10,000 to Hamas in Gaza. These rockets can hit every single city in the state of Israel from Metula to Eilat.”

“This is the same Iran which is now advancing very rapidly toward acquiring military nuclear capability,” Oren said, citing a Washington Policy Center study that says should Iran decide to make a nuclear weapon today, it would take them 62 days to do so, and by this time next year, just 12 days.

On economic sanctions to dissuade Iran from uranium enrichment: “Not only do we say options are on the table, but when we say them, that people in Tehran believe those words.”

Egypt

“We are in close communication with the Egyptian transition government, and they assure us of their continued commitment to upholding the peace treaty. We are committed to upholding the peace treaty, and we’ve kept an advanced team in Cairo of diplomats to remand the Israeli embassy there once security conditions allow for that reopening.”

Turkey

“On the Turkish front we are not responding to Turkey’s belligerent statements. We are saying again and again, that we regard Turkey as a friend, as an ally. There’s been a deep, centuries-old long friendship between the Turkish people and the Jewish people. We want to maintain it, we want to get back to where we were several years ago.”

On submitting an interpretation of last year’s Gaza flotilla incident to the UN for arbitration, in a process that ended in the Palmer Report, which said Israel’s blockade was legal: “It was quite a roll of the dice for us. As you quite well know, we haven’t always gotten a fair shake from the UN.”

Jacob Kamaras is the Editor-in-Chief of JNS.

Posted on September 20, 2011 and filed under Israel, World.