Update: I’m seeing reports on Twitter that Ambassador Oren has “categorically denied” making the remarks Debbie Wasserman Schultz attributed to him. I’ll update with a link to his statement if I can find it online.
Update: It’s official – Wasserman Schultz has been busted lying about comments by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, to use him as a partisan prop. Statement from Ambassador Oren’s office, as relayed by the Weekly Standard: “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”
Update: Mitt Romney responds to the removal of the Jerusalem language from the Democrat platform: “It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama???s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel???s capital. Four years of President Obama???s repeated attempts to create distance between the United States and our cherished ally have led the Democratic Party to remove from their platform an unequivocal acknowledgment of a simple reality. As president, I will restore our relationship with Israel and stand shoulder to shoulder with our close ally.”
The behavior of Democrats on the eve of their convention is instructive. They???re having a full-blown nervous breakdown. The whole party is flying apart at the seams, filling the air with insane shrieks of malice. No doubt they would rather project an image of calm self-assurance as President Obama runs for re-election. Instead, they???re behaving like??? well, like the party that would expect Americans to vote for four more years of soaring public debt and permanent high unemployment.
The latest eruption of shrill hysteria comes from a very active volcano, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. At a ???training session for Jewish Democrats??? on Monday, the Washington Examiner reports that Wasserman Schultz accused Republicans of doing ???everything they can to lie and distort and mischaracterize this president???s stellar record on Israel.???
Presumably part of this ???training session??? involved using hypnotic techniques to make the students forget about the time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu patiently schooled Obama on the importance of Israel???s current borders. That certainly was a stellar performance, but it wasn???t Obama who gave it. Netanyahu gave Obama some useful lessons on the true character of the American people as a bonus. Wasserman Schultz supported Obama???s dangerous and ignorant call for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, until Netanyahu forced Obama to begin furiously ???clarifying??? his position.
Hopefully Wasserman Schultz also remembered to hypnotize her students into forgetting the time Obama was caught on a ???hot mike??? with then-President of France Nicholas Sarkozy, who said of Netanyahu, ???I cannot stand him. He is a liar.??? Did Obama stand up and provide a ???stellar??? defense of America???s great ally? Only in Debbie Wasserman Schultz???s fevered imagination! Obama???s actual response was, ???You???re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day.???
Wasserman Schultz???s imagination went on to generate a highly controversial ???quote??? from an Israeli official on Monday to back up her Republican-bashing. ???We know, and I???ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel,??? she claimed. She said it was essential for Jewish Democrats to ???make sure that the fact that there has never been and will never be daylight between the two parties or the support for Israel that we have in the United States, that that is conveyed to Jewish Americans across this country.???
The Washington Examiner said it ???could find no such public reference by Oren accusing Republicans of being ???dangerous??? to Israel,??? and received no response when asking the Israeli embassy to comment. Until confirmation is obtained, we can only speculate on whether he has privately said anything that could be interpreted the way Wasserman Schultz insists, and she’s not exactly a reliable source of honest information.
Oren wouldn???t be a very effective ambassador if he was given to making such intemperate statements. (As we shall see, other Israeli officials have been known to make intemperate statements about American politics, but they???re not ambassadors.) Oren could find himself dealing with either a Republican or Democrat Administration after any given presidential election, so it doesn???t make sense for him to poison his relationship with either party. For that very reason, he might be reluctant to issue a public statement on the eve of the Democrat convention, accusing Wasserman Schultz of misquoting him, or mischaracterizing a remark he made in private.
Oren has a history of being very tactful about American partisan affairs. For example, when Jamie Weinstein of the Daily Caller asked him if President Obama could be considered the best friend Israel ever had, in a January 2011 interview, Oren replied, ???I think Obama is the best friend in ways that are different sometimes than other best friends. We have had a number of best friends as president.???
In the same article, the Daily Caller quotes Oren???s thoughts about the most recent Republican president, George W. Bush, written at the end of Bush???s second term: ???During his eight years in office, George W. Bush established new standards for the term ???pro-Israel.??? He repeatedly affirmed Israel???s right to defend itself against terror, and praised its value as America???s primary Middle Eastern ally. He also expressed a deep ideological attachment to Israel as a democracy and, spiritually, to Israel as the biblical homeland. Less publicly, the president also authorized an unprecedented level of cooperation between the U.S. military and the Israel Defense Forces, including intelligence sharing, anti-terror training, and the joint development of missile defense systems.???
While Oren went on to say, very diplomatically, that Obama had done a decent job of living up to the Bush standard as of January 2011, there was one specific criticism he carefully made of the current Administration: he didn???t think Obama was doing enough to stop the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. He felt the Obama Administration was pursuing a better relationship with Iran and its Palestinian proxies as a means towards persuading them to shut down their nuclear program, but countered that Israel???s strategy ???was more that unless you deal with the Iranian threat, making peace would be vastly more difficult because the Iranians can stop it at any time. They can get Hamas to stop it, they can get Hezbollah to stop it.???
It???s hard to see how Oren would get from there to calling the Republicans, who are saying essentially the same thing, ???dangerous.??? But one group Oren has publicly described as dangerous is J Street, the left-wing George Soros-funded anti-Israel lobby??? which Debbie Wasserman Schultz is very tight with. J Street thinks Israel defending itself from terrorists is morally equivalent to Hamas terrorist attacks. Oren called them ???a unique problem,??? said they were ???significantly out of the mainstream,??? and condemned them for ???fooling around with the lives of 7 million people.???
As the Washington Examiner noted, despite Wasserman Schultz accusing the Republicans of somehow creating ???daylight??? between the U.S. and Israel, it was Obama???s explicit policy promise that he would create space between America and Israel ??? a distance he felt was lacking during the Bush years, to America???s cost. ???During those eight years, there was no space between us and Israel, and what did we get from that???? Obama asked American Jewish leaders in July 2009. ???When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.???
If you want to see some ???space??? and ???daylight,??? try asking President Obama if Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. The Democrats deliberately removed language saying ???Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel??? from their 2012 party platform. Language opposing a Palestinian ???right of return??? to Israeli soil was also removed.
The current relationship between Israel and the Obama Administration could best be described as??? strained. The American side of a joint military exercise with Israel scheduled for October has been significantly scaled back, in terms of both manpower and the deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries. Some Israeli officials think this was done by Obama as a petty reprisal for Netanyahu giving Mitt Romney an excessively warm welcome during his recent visit to Israel. One security cabinet member said ???there is no doubt that President Barack Obama, if he is re-elected, will make Netanyahu pay for his behavior. It will not pass quietly.???
Others view the scaled-down American participation in those military exercises as part of a signal from Obama to Netanyahu that he can???t count on American assistance if he decides to strike the Iranian nuclear program. ???Washington???s hesitant policy is making the Iranians feel freer to move ahead with the nuclear program,??? said one Israeli official. ???This is not how you create deterrence to avoid a military operation.???
An Israeli newspaper sent shockwaves around the world this weekend by reporting that the Obama Administration has secretly signaled to the Iranians that as long as they refrain from attacking American military installations, they can count on the United States sitting on the sidelines during an American attack. That sounds??? dangerous.