Former ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ANNE MANDLEBAUM)
New Koolanu party leader Moshe Kahlon unveiled his first candidate for the March 17 election on Wednesday – former ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
At a press conference at Tel Aviv’s ZOA house, Kahlon presented Oren as the right man to fix Israel’s image problems and deteriorating relationship with key allies.
“Unfortunately, allies of Israel are distancing themselves and our relations aren’t what they were in the past,” Kahlon said. “Michael Oren is the right person to handle this responsibility. He proved that, even when there are disagreements, he can maintain close ties. Michael is the best in his field.”
Oren, whose family attended the press conference, said he was emotional about entering politics and thanked Kahlon for the opportunity.
“Israel is at a critical junction,” Oren said. “I couldn’t look from the side and do nothing when Israel is under diplomatic attack.”
Both Kahlon and Oren spoke about how Israel’s diplomatic and socioeconomic challenges are intertwined.
“If Israel can handle its internal problems, it will be stronger diplomatically, and being strong externally will help Israel be strong internally,” Oren said.
Oren called Kahlon “a true leader” and a partner for his political path. After the press conference, he told The Jerusalem Post they already had started working together on the party’s diplomatic platform.
Kahlon and Oren, in the past, have expressed different views on diplomatic issues: Kahlon fiercely opposed withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and once supported annexing much of the West Bank, but lately he has expressed support for territorial concessions.
Oren, meanwhile, has spoken in favor of Israel withdrawing unilaterally from much of the West Bank and criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not being bold enough on diplomatic issues.
An upstate New York native, Oren was raised in West Orange, New Jersey. An expert on US-Israel relations, he is the author of the best-selling book Power, Faith and Fantasy; Six Days of War: June 1967; and The Making of the Modern Middle East.
Following an academic career, he served as ambassador in Washington for four years. Koolanu will announce another candidate, socioeconomic expert Eli Alaloof, on Thursday morning in Beersheba.
Like Oren, Alaloof is a former Netanyahu appointee.
Earlier in the day, Kahlon argued that the central issue in the campaign would be about the economy and giving working people dignity.
“The coming election will not be about the Right and Left,” he said at a conference in Tel Aviv hosted by the Calcalist financial newspaper.
“The coming elections are about closing gaps, about providing equal opportunities, about leadership, vision and the courage to create necessary and needed changes.”
A big problem that plagued the economy was market concentration, he said.
The economy, he said, “is a sick economy, and its disease has a name. The root of the problem is concentration.
It’s monopolies. It’s a country that has become a country of monopolies, cartels, and oligopolies.”
The cure, he offered, required introducing competition.
Kahlon said that his approach was true for the cellular market, where reforms he led as communications minister led to dramatic price drops, as well as for also for banking, housing and gas. The latter reference appeared to offer backing to Antitrust Commissioner David Gilo, who on Tuesday took a step toward declaring Noble Energy and Delek Group a cartel in Israel’s natural gas market.