Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ANNE MANDLEBAUM)
Former ambassador to the United States Michael Oren reacted with amusement to a report over the weekend that he would be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top choice for a reserved slot on the Likud’s next Knesset list.
The Likud Central Committee is to deliberate possible changes in the party’s constitution on December 24 and vote on them by secret ballot the following day. Netanyahu has proposed giving himself the right to choose one Knesset candidate among each 10 on the Likud list, which is currently selected by the party membership as a whole.
Israel Hayom, a newspaper considered close to Netanyahu, revealed Friday that the candidates Netanyahu would be interested in appointing include Oren, former OC Southern Command Tal Russo, and former minister Bennie Begin, who narrowly missed getting elected to the current Knesset.
Since returning from Washington, there has been speculation about Oren running for Knesset with various parties, including one that is being formed by former minister Moshe Kahlon. Oren is currently teaching at the Herzliya Interdisiplinary Center (IDC) and completing a book on his time in Washington that is due to be published in June.
“I have read many reports on supposed political affiliations in the Israeli press,” Oren told The Jerusalem Post Saturday night. “I’m not running for anything. I’m teaching at IDC, writing a book, and advancing issues important to this country.”
When asked if he would turn down a reserved slot in the next Knesset, Oren said: “I’m about serving to this country. There are different ways of serving.”
Oren has views that could prevent him from getting elected to the Knesset by the Likud membership if he would not be given a reserved slot. He is a vocal supporter of the peace process with the Palestinians and has said Israel should consider unilaterally withdrawing from parts of Judea and Samaria and declaring its own borders if peace talks fail.
“I have never hid my support for the peace process,” Oren said. “Some were critical of me for that before I went to Washington.”
Recently, Oren has not hesitated to criticize Netanyahu’s policies. In an interview with the English-language broadcast network VoiceofIsrael.
com, he said he “would have preferred that Netanyahu take a bolder diplomatic initative” at his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
But Saturday night, Oren stressed that he “has a high opinion of the prime minister” and that he is thankful for the opportunity Netanyahu gave him to serve Israel in the United States.