Kulanu MK and former ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Former ambassador to the US MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) turned down an offer to meet with Republican candidate for US president Donald Trump to discuss Israel, Oren said Monday.
The invitation came from a member of Trump’s campaign who advises the candidate on Israel, the MK said, but would not name him. The request was made two weeks ago, when Oren was in Washington to take part in a strategic dialogue at the Washington Institute, a think tank.
“I’m not going to get involved in this election in any way, period,” Oren said.
The former ambassador’s revelation came after columns in multiple American publications falsely accused him of giving Trump advice, based on a tweet by an Israeli freelance reporter contracting comments Oren made and taking them out of context.
The tweet from last month quoted Oren as saying: “If I were Trump I’d emphasize the Muslim name [of Orlando nightclub shooter] Omar Saddiqui Mateen.”
The quote was taken from an interview Oren gave on Channel 10 following the Orlando shooting, in which he was asked how the attack will influence the US election.
Oren responded by recounting how Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton reacted to a previous shooting by a Muslim, in San Bernardino. Trump, he explained, responded by calling to ban Muslims from entering the US, and got a bump in the polls.
“If I were Donald Trump now,” Oren said, “I would have gone out from the moment the FBI started leaking the material that shows this is a man acting with Islamic motivations and ties, first of all, with a name like Omar Saddiqui Mateen, the son of immigrants from Afghanistan, who had ties with Islamic extremist organizations.
That already very much influences the political race.”
The New York Times’s Roger Cohen included the full quote, writing: “it is poisonous to blame the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims for this crisis of religion,” but added that Oren “tweeted that Trump would do this, not that he recommended this.”
This month in The Forward journalist Samuel Freedman wrote that Oren “offered campaign advice to Trump...[to] emphasize the shooter’s Muslim identity” in an article that claimed Oren is among a cohort of Republican-leaning American Jews who advise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while the Republicans tried to use Trump to flip the Jewish vote in their favor.
Oren expressed concern that the columnists are saying he is doing so in order to claim Israel and Netanyahu are intervening in the US election.
“It’s an attempt to delegitimize the government of Israel,” Oren said. “I went through this [as ambassador] in 2012.
People have different agendas for doing this, but it is emphatically untrue and an immensely irresponsible claim for a journalist to make.
“Accusing me of being an adviser to Trump based on an out-of-context tweet is a serious charge. It’s saying an Israeli elected official is intervening in the US election,” he added.