Israeli Ambassador visits Miller Center
Michael Oren addresses changing regional dynamics, US alliance
Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren spoke at the Miller Center of Public Affairs Thursday, affirming the strength of U.S.-Israeli relations despite changing regional dynamics in the Middle East.
Oren, who toured with President Barack Obama during his trip to Israel last month, sought to represent the relationship as irrevocably grounded in similar ideals of democracy, security and economic innovation.
“[Israel] is one component which you can count on remaining stable in the Middle East,” Oren said. “[One state] that is militarily and economically robust. It is a country [that] has never known a second of non-democratic governance.”
Oren also highlighted the United States’ historic interest in protecting the Jewish homeland, echoing a speech he gave to a joint session of Congress Thursday morning on the importance of Holocaust remembrance. But even so, he said, the alliance is testing largely uncharted waters as regional tensions grow.
“We are living through historic times in the Middle East,” Oren said. “Any of the assumptions we had four or five years ago about this region — we can pretty much throw them out.”
Oren only briefly discussed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and issues regarding American disagreement with Israel’s settlement policy, despite a small protest staged outside.
Six to seven protestors, with signs decrying the lack of intervention in the Gaza humanitarian crisis, gathered in front of the Miller Center and remained there for the duration of the event.
“[We hope the ambassador] will look at [Palestine] from a human rights perspective,” said Sasan Mousavi, third-year College student and one of protesters outside Thursday’s event. “[There are] war crimes being committed and Israel isn’t doing anything about these crimes.”
Though Oren did not speak about the Palestinian conflict in humanitarian terms, he did note the Israeli government’s desire for a “historic peace.”
Oren also discussed Israeli interests in Egypt during a brief question-and-answer session following his speech. Although Israel has maintained diplomatic relations with Egypt since 1980, the recent regime change and growing political power of the Muslim Brotherhood has left many questioning any future partnership. Though Israel has voiced concerns about the rise of Islamic extremism, Oren said Egypt remains a key strategic partner for Israel.
“We have no illusions about the Muslim Brotherhood, but we prefer to focus not on what Egyptian leaders say, but on what they do,” Oren said.