Israel, US ambassadors share vision of peace deal

Michael Oren, Dan Shapiro tell JFNA General Assembly audience of hopes for Israeli-Arab agreement, deny claims US-Israel ties weak.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
November 8, 2011 03:10
2 minute read.
Michael Oren

Michael Oren 311. (photo credit: JP)

 
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DENVER – A senior Israeli diplomat and his US counterpart said in a joint interview on Wednesday that their greatest desire for the future of the region was to see a peace deal signed between the Jewish state and its neighbors.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told an audience at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Denver that they both hoped to see a US-brokered deal between the Jewish state and Arab countries.

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“I have a dream one day that Dan and I will witness the signing of an agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors on the White House lawn,”said Oren.

“I share the same vision,” Shapiro said.

During the interview the two diplomats spoke about growing up in Jewish-American families and their strong ties to Israel. Oren, who was born in the US and moved to Israel as an adult, told the American audience that he wept when he had to give up his US citizenship in order to become Israel’s ambassador to Washington.

“There was a very nice ceremony at the US embassy in Tel Aviv. I cried, they hugged me,” he said. “They can take away my passport but they can’t take away my Americanism, my love of football.”

Shapiro, who is fluent in Hebrew, spoke about the profound influence the year he spent studying at university in Israel had on him and how his deep familiarity with the culture helps him communicate with its people.

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Throughout the interview the two, who seemed cut from the same cloth, agreed with one another on their outlook for the Middle East and relations between their two countries.

They both dismissed claims that ties between Israel and the US had been rocky since President Barack Obama entered the White House, saying that both countries agreed on the fundamentals.

“On big issues like Iran and Israel’s security there’s never been disagreement,” Oren said.

Each diplomat said he hoped the series of uprisings across the Middle East known as the Arab Spring will produce democratic regimes living at peace with the Jewish state.

The General Assembly, which began Sunday, has traditionally drawn some of the highest-ranking politicians in the US and Israel but this year’s parley has seen a wave of cancellations by big names, begging the question: Is it just bad luck or something else? “There was scheduling problems with the Rabin memorial on Wednesday,” explained Joe Berkofsky, JFNA’s spokesman.

“Nonetheless Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be here via video.” Netanyahu originally said he would attend in person then canceled.

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom was supposed to fill in but he also bailed at the last minute.

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