We told you, Michael Oren

Michael Oren sounds the alarm in The Atlantic about America’s support for a conflict with Iran. This follows Bibi’s recent realization that Trump can’t be relied upon to deal with Iran.

We told you so.

We told you it was unwise to double down on the—to put it charitably—mercurial Trump. What in Trump’s biography gives anyone the sense that he is loyal to anything? He certainly values loyalty, but he does not give it.

Even the Ukrainian government realized it was folly to be perceived as partisan in US politics even when vital aid was at stake. Somehow, I doubt their diplomacy is more sophisticated than Israel’s. We can debate who is under more of an existential threat, but the Ukrainians, like Israel, are under constant attack from within and from their near neighbors. Ukraine is virtually helpless without support from the US, unlike Israel.

Oren has to dig deep to save face by appearing to argue that “both sides do it” by referencing the “Iran Deal” even while sheepishly admitting it was destabilizing to exit and trying to draw a parallel between US logistical aid during the Yom Kippur War (which many have judged to have been outcome determinative of an existential crisis) and the delay of some extra missiles during a minor conflagration recently. Weak.

I get it. Again, Oren is trying to save face.

He is trying, I think, to make it look as if his past criticisms of Obama weren’t partisan (or something else altogether) and that his criticisms of Trump stem from the same objective perch.

But it has been clear for a long time that Trump will give you token victories like an embassy, but when it comes to the vital interests of Israel (or anyone else), he just doesn’t care. Name a town after Trump for the mostly symbolic embassy move, but spend 8 years demonizing Obama despite his agreement to the biggest foreign arms deal in US history? Well, you say, that would have happened anyway. That’s what Ukraine thought, too.

To partisanize Israel this way was a shocking error on the part of the Netanyahu government—and its diplomats, like Oren.

Why was this mistake made? It’s easy, really. Democrats have been frustratingly bad on the Palestinian question—though it was Condoleeza Rice, whom Oren praises, who pushed for the Palestinian elections that brought Hamas to power in Gaza in order to further her administration’s utopian vision of a democratic Middle East.

But on the broader question of Israel’s security in the Middle East, Republicans have done more harm in recent administrations. It was the Republican war of choice in Iraq and their subsequent management of it that turned over the Iraqi state to the Shi’a. It is Trump who has turned tail in Syria allowing it to become a base for the Turkey of antisemite Erdogan and of genocidal Iran.

Whatever mistakes Obama made in Syria and Iran were while doing cleanup duty for the Bush Administration. Obama’s unforced error in Egypt during the Arab Spring does not fit Oren’s thesis because it did not expand the Shia axis—we are talking about Iran, right? Even there, Oren admits Obama pledged to intervene. Is he positive Trump would do the same? It seems he isn’t, and neither is the Prime Minister.

I could argue that Obama’s mistakes were errors of execution not intent whereas Bush’s blunder with Hamas was to promote his latest excuse for invading Iraq and that Trump simply does what he wants, but that doesn’t matter. Presidents of both parties are going to do things that are not in Israel’s interests. “Both sides” do, in fact, do it. So to act as the Pro-Israel community has for the last 10+ years that only one party does has been a mistake, and one that is now coming home to roost.

All of this is because US interests and Israeli interests, of course, do not always align, but in order to maximize cooperation where they do, it’s best to leave the door open for such cooperations to take place regardless of who is in power.

Oren’s article is a good first step as a signal to the Pro-Israel community on this topic, but it comes from a strange source who appears to be attempting to rewrite the history of his mission in the United States.

About the Author
Jon-Erik G. Storm is an educator, JAG, former politician, and former professor of religion and philosophy.
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