Oren: US-Israel ties are ‘great’

Israeli ambassador to the US: Israel’s Jerusalem policy ‘not going to change.’

April 6, 2010 03:45
2 minute read.
Michael Oren

Michael Oren 311. (photo credit: JP)

Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, in an interview with CNN on Sunday, was asked to sum up the state of Israeli-American ties in one word, and replied, “Great.”

Last month, Oren was widely reported to have said in a conference calls with Israeli consuls-general in the US that ties with Washington were at their lowest ebb in 35 years. He denied having made that comment.

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When asked on CNN about Israel’s policy in Jerusalem, he restated the government’s position that Israel’s policy on the capital dates back to 1967, and is the policy of Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin, not Binyamin Netanyahu.

Under Israeli law, Oren said, Jerusalem “has the same status as Tel Aviv.” The “policy is not going to change,” he said.

Oren stressed that Israel signed two peace treaties with Arab countries, one with Egypt and the other with Jordan, while this was Israel’s policy, and also conducted 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians without changing its stand on the capital.

“We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table,” the ambassador said. “So far, they have not done so.”

Oren also took on the argument that the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians “foments anti-American sentiments” and, by implication, puts US lives at risk.

“If there was no Israel,” he asked, “would American forces be more safe or less safe? Through the cooperation of Israel, Americans are incredibly more safe, because through the cooperation with Israel, American soldiers are receiving training, receiving intelligence, receiving equipment that Israel has developed jointly with the United States. And Israel is saving an incalculable number of American lives through our cooperation.”

Meanwhile, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell is not expected back in the region this week, as the government has still not delivered its response to demands made by President Barack Obama last month, including that Israel stop Jewish construction in east Jerusalem for four months, take a number of confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians, and agree to talk about core issues – Jerusalem, borders, settlements and refugees – during indirect talks with the Palestinians.

The prime minister is expected to decide on Tuesday whether he will travel next week to Washington to take part in Obama’s Nuclear Security Conference, which will bring together leaders from some 40 states. Officials in Jerusalem said that since Netanyahu met with Obama just two weeks ago, no meeting between the two was currently planned at that event.

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