Israel’s first American-born Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, told an Orthodox Union audience that differences between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration are narrowing; that “there is no daylight between us and our positions on Iran;” that “so much goes on behind the scenes” in relations between the two countries; and that although “there are still gaps,” the two countries “have approached these differences with open-mindedness.”
Ambassador Oren, a scholar, author of the famed book “Six Days of War” on the 1967 conflict, and a former resident of New Jersey, delivered the keynote address at the OU’s 111th Annual Dinner and Awards Presentation Sunday in New York. His speech, “The U.S.-Israel Alliance: A Historic and Personal Perspective,” noted that ties between America and Israel go back to the Puritans, who had “a deep spiritual connection to the idea of a restored Israel.” The relationship became formalized as the U.S-Israel strategic alliance following the Six-Day War. It was reaffirmed by president after president, Mr. Oren said, but ran into “differences of opinion” with the Obama Administration and a president who “came from a community not always committed to Israel and was left of center.”
These differences of opinion were most emphatic regarding President Obama’s call for a complete freeze on settlement building. “No Israel government – right, left or center – can tell Jews that they cannot build on our tribal lands,” Oren said to applause. The government of Israel has announced a 10-month freeze on settlement building (which does not apply to East Jerusalem and has certain other exceptions), which has been received positively in Washington.
The position of the two countries has also grown closer on Iran, the Ambassador said. When President Obama reached out to Tehran over its nuclear program, Israel feared an open-ended engagement while Iran continued to process uranium. It has since become clear, the Ambassador declared, that President Obama will move forward with “crippling sanctions” and that “all options remain on the table,” if Iran does not respond in positive fashion by the end of December.
Regarding differences between the two nations, Mr. Oren emphasized that the test of an alliance “is not to agree on everything but on how to deal with these differences.” His own round-the-clock diplomacy, he made it clear, will be a major factor in assuring that Israel’s “400-year-old alliance with the United States of America” will prevail, regardless of its inevitable ups and downs.
The OU dinner also paid special tribute to Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, on its 25th anniversary and honored Schreiber Foods Inc. of Green Bay, WI, with the National Kashrut Leadership Award.