Saturday, July 18, 2015
"Ally" by Michael Oren-A Must Read
I have just finished reading, "Ally", by Michael B. Oren, who was until just recently, Israel's ambassador to the US. I heartily recommend it for anyone interested in the Middle East conflicts, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Obama administration's clumsy dealings with it.
Oren was born as an American into a Jewish family in New Jersey, and as a young man, made the aliya (immigration) to Israel, served in the Israeli Defense Forces (including in combat), and eventually, renounced his American citizenship as a requirement when he became the Israeli ambassador to the USA. That is not to suggest that he rejected the US, a country he continues to love. It was required by Israeli law when he became ambassador.
Oren is a professional writer, as evidenced by phrases like this in describing his final days as ambassador before returning to Israel:
"Cloaked in that anonymity, I stood on a wooden bridge just as the early October sun pierced the trees. Leaves were already falling, see-sawing down to the water, where they melted into a golden flow."
Shades of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. But that's OK. I am just playfully nit-picking.
One of the reasons I bought the book was my own personal experience in being present at the event at UC Irvine in 2010 when Oren was disrupted by members of the Muslim Student Union. Oren appropriately gave the incident about one page. When four of those students returned to UCI a couple of years later to speak before an adoring MSU audience, I asked them why they were unable to extend the same right of free speech that they were enjoying to those they opposed. They arrogantly responded that they would do it all over again and that Oren was a "war criminal" referring to his IDF experience in combat.
In the book, Oren bends over backwards to find praise when he feels it due even to those like President Obama. Oren praises Obama for coming to Israel's aid when that country was hit by a terrible forest fire. Actually, Oren notified Obama of the fire and asked for assistance at a White House social event. Obama instructed his aide, Reggie Love, to give Oren whatever was needed. Oren and Love then huddled together in another room and the machinery of sending equipment was set in motion.
Oren also defends Obama against the charge of the infamous White House snub when Obama reportedly left Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to go upstairs and have dinner. According to Oren, that story was exaggerated and inaccurate.
Yet, the picture Oren leaves of Obama time and time again is of being astounded by Obama's actions and statements pertaining to Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians, as well as the negotiations with Iran over their nuclear facilities. (Oren left his position prior to the recently-concluded deal.) Though Oren takes pains in his writing not to leave the impression of attacking Obama-or John Kerry- the reader can hardly come away with a positive impression.
All in all, the book is a page-turner. I treat auto-biographies with caution as they tend to be self-serving, and perhaps, this one is no exception. Other participants may or may not contest his recollections and descriptions of events. It provides, however, an interesting insight into the relationships between Israel and the US and between their leaders during the Obama administration.