Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fascinating Insight into US-Israel Relationship

It has been a while since I last posted. The main reason I have been so remiss is that I've been busy with business, but it's also because I've been doing a lot of reading recently. Most of the books I have read are non-fiction, ranging the gamut of my eclectic interests including music, politics, economics, science and particularly biography. One of the most interesting books in the last category is the autobiography of the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.

American-born and raised, Oren became a avowed Zionist as a teenager when he met Yitzhak Rabin during the latter's term in the diplomatic job that was eventually to become Oren's own. Rabin was, of course, later to become the Prime Minister of Israel who signed the Oslo Peace Accord with Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasir Arafat, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize (together with Arafat and Shimon Peres). Oren fell in love with Israel on his first visit there as a seventeen year-old and was determined to become its ambassador to his country of birth, but before being selected for the role by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he had a distinguished career as an Israeli paratrooper, a history professor and a novelist. 

Oren served as ambassador from 2009 until 2013, one of the most turbulent periods in the often fractious Israel-US alliance. He had to smooth the stormy relationship between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama at a time when Israel became increasingly cast (most unfairly in my view) as the villain in the Middle East. He managed to gain the respect of the Washington political and diplomatic establishment and constantly provided Israel with a professional, objective voice in America, in spite of the fact that his own family back in Israel was often under threat of terrorist attack and Hamas missiles. He was there during the build-up to the recent Iran nuclear agreement and had to personally manage the relationship between a Prime Minister who saw the deal as the ultimate existential threat to his nation and a US President who seemed to be only too willing to trade an ally's security for his own political legacy. Michael Oren retired before the dreaded Iran deal was completed and I imagine Netanyahu acutely feels his loss.

Whatever you think of Israel (and I make no apology for the fact that I am an admirer), Oren's book, Ally, is a fascinating insight into that country's politics, as well as into the explosive Middle East and the personalities and games of Washington politics.

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