Major Jewish organizations on Thursday blasted an Obama administration diplomat with connections to J Street for criticizing Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in a newspaper interview.
Hannah Rosenthal, a former J Street board member, currently serves as the State Department's director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Rosenthal criticized Oren for refusing to attend the recent conference of the left-wing Jewish group J Street because of deep disagreements between the organization's platform and the Israeli government's positions on issues ranging from Iran to peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Rosenthal called Oren's refusal "most unfortunate" and said he "would have learned a lot" had he attended the conference, which was held in Washington in October.
"I was surprised to see an official of the American government commenting on the positions taken by Ambassador Oren," said Alan Solow, who is a long-time supporter of US President Barack Obama, is considered close to the administration, and is the chairman of the New York-based Conference of Presidents.
Rosenthal's comments "go beyond her responsibilities," he said, and reflected only her "personal feelings."
"I've had any number of conversations with people in the administration who interact regularly with Ambassador Oren, and they have spoken very highly of him. The comments are especially inappropriate given the fact that the administration is actively involved in trying to advance the peace process and its relationship with Israel on a variety of fronts," he added.
Josh Block, a spokesman for AIPAC, the largest Israel advocacy group in Washington, said "AIPAC totally agrees with the sentiment expressed by Alan Solow and the Conference of Presidents, and those views are widely held by members of the Conference."
A senior Jewish official in Washington who asked to remain anonymous called the Rosenthal interview, published in Haaretz on Thursday, "a very troubling occurrence. I can't recall a circumstance in which an American diplomat criticized an ambassador of any country in such a significant way."
The official said news reports that Jewish leaders are calling the White House to protest the interview "are accurate."
Another senior Jewish official who asked not to be named called her comments "unfair to [Oren]."
Rosenthal could not be reached by press time on Christmas Eve, an American federal holiday.
State Department official Jeff Feltman responded to the concerns Thursday night, saying, "The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.
"Ambassador Oren plays an indispensable role in maintaining and strengthening our relationship through his day-to-day interaction with the administration and Congress on issues of vital importance to both countries and his vigorous outreach to Americans of all origins and points of view."