Former Israeli ambassador to US Michael Oren..
(photo credit: Hyungwon Kang / Reuters)
US President Barack Obama’s itinerary shows his deep commitment to Zionism and
to Israel as a Jewish state that is historically rooted in this region, Israel’s
Ambassador to the US Michael Oren told Channel 2 on Saturday night during its
Meet the Press program.
“This will be Obama’s first trip outside the
United States in his second term. Out of more than 190 countries around the
world, he chose to come to us,” said Oren.
The ambassador took issue with
Thomas Friedman’s latest column in the The New York Times in which the
journalist said, “Obama could be the first sitting American president to visit
Israel as a tourist.”
At a time when the region is burning, Obama comes
to Israel with a message of deep support which is a testament to the strong bond
between the two countries, Oren said.
“It is a message that will be heard
both in Israel and the Middle East,” Oren said.
The Israeli public has
yet to meet Obama face to face and one of the central goals of this visit is to
establish that kind of connection, Oren said.
“[Obama] will visit the
Shrine of the Book [at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem that houses] the ancient
Dead Sea Scrolls, written more than 2,000 years ago by Jews in Hebrew in their
homeland, the land of Israel, this sends a message to the world about the Jewish
state’s deep roots in this region,” said Oren.
“This is not a country
that fell from the sky after the Holocaust, this is a state that is truly rooted
in the region, and is a permanent and legitimate,” Oren said.
important, he said, is Obama’s scheduled stop at the Mount Herzl cemetery to lay
a wreath at the grave of the fonder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl.
a significant endorsement to the Zionist idea,” Oren said.
Israel, the president will hold discussions with Israeli leaders on important
topics, such as the stalled Israeli Palestinian negotiations.
shares the Obama’s desire to to persuade Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas to return to the negotiating table so that solution can be found for that
allows for two states for two peoples, Oren said.
Obama would also talk
with Israeli leaders about the threat of chemical weapons from Syria and Iran’s
advancement toward the possession of nuclear weapons, Oren said.
interview with Channel 2 on Thursday night Obama said he believed that Iran
would have a nuclear weapon in a year or more, but that a window of time still
existed for diplomatic deterrence.
On Saturday night Oren told Channel 2
that only Israel could decide when to defend its citizens against a regional
threat, and Obama recognizes this.
He also spoke of the importance of
releasing Jonathan Pollard from a US jail where he is serving a life sentence
for passing classified information to Israel, including with regard to an Iraqi
nuclear reactor that Israel bombed in 1981.
“Pollard has paid a heavy
price and we have taken responsibility and apologized.
The time has come
for him to be released. Netanyahu will raise the issue with Obama and we hope he
will be released soon,” Oren said.
In an interview with Channel 2 on
Thursday night Obama said, “I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard
immediately, but what I am going to be doing is make sure that that he – like
every other American who has been sentenced – is accorded the same kinds of
review and same examination of the equities that any other individual would be
IDF reservists plan to deliver to Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu a letter on Sunday morning demanding Pollard’s release. They
plan to give the same letter to President Shimon Peres as well as to the US
Consulate in Jerusalem.