Amb. Oren tries to tamp down anti-Obama rage
09/12/2010 - 09:13
James Besser

 Reading Ron Kampeas' story on a pre-Rosh Hashanah interview with the Jewish press (which I missed, due to other commitments) I was struck by the dilemma Israeli leaders face in these days of unrestrained, unfiltered political animosity.

According to Ron, Oren said that “Obama often doesn’t get the credit he deserves in Israel.”

The interview was, he reports, “Oren’s most intensive effort yet to counteract speculation in some Jewish and Israeli corners that the Obama administration has been chilly, if not outright hostile, toward the Netanyahu government. It comes at the start of renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks and a new anti-Iran sanctions regime, two developments seen as bolstering Israel’s need to be seen as enjoying strong relations with the White House.”

That points to a growing diplomatic dilemma for Israel's leaders.

It's  long been useful for governments in Jerusalem , especially those on the right, to periodically stir up animosity to administrations seen as trying to pressure the Jewish state. Netanyahu is a past master at the process, and he has no lack of hawkish pro-Israel groups here and – when there's a Democratic president to hit over the head with the Israel club – congressional Republicans eager to take up the “he's anti-Israel” chant.

The problem is: how do you control it and keep that animosity from undercutting the U.S.-Israel alliance?

Answer: with great difficulty.

In today's overheated environment, with rumors and nuggets of conventional wisdom - often untrue - spread with blinding speed by the Web and with compromise considered just about the dirtiest word in any language, that kind of raging distrust becomes almost impossible to tamp down.

And in the end, Israel has a vital national interest in maintaining good working relations with the White House – no matter who is sitting behind the historic desk.

Michael Oren isn't stupid; he knows that while political pressure against any U.S. squeeze on Israel is sometimes helpful, the anti-Obama rage in some segments of the Jewish electorate here, as well as Obama's pathetically low standing with the Israeli public, can only detract from the strong U.S.-Israel relations that remain a bulwark of Israel's security.

Israeli leaders don't have to like President Obama or his policies, but they have to work with him and the administration he leads on a range of issues. Unrestrained hatred and far-fetched accusations (“He's the most anti-Israel president ever”) by some of Israel's strongest supporters don't help that happen.

Seems to me Oren's comments were a smart response to a real and growing problem.

Oren, who once spurned the group, also said he now communicates regularly with J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami.

"We understand that the American Jewish community is politically pluralistic, but the tent of pro-Israel organizations is a very big tent, is very inclusive,” he said.

Exactly. You don't have to like J Street's policies to accept that it reflects the views of a significant chunk of the American Jewish community – and that those Jews, like the organization itself, support the Jewish state.

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