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In Defense of Ambassador Oren

2:15 PM, Jul 27, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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There's been some grumbling in the pro-Israel community about Israeli ambassador Michael Oren's genuflection toward President Obama earlier today. I think the criticism is unfair.

Here's his whole statement, on the occasion of the signing of the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act:

The Government and the people of Israel express profound gratitude to President Barack Obama on his signing of the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act. This historic bill, passed overwhelmingly by both Houses of Congress, represents the most comprehensive commitment on the part of the United States to the short and long-term security of its unshakable ally, Israel. The Enhanced Security Cooperation Act sends an unequivocal message of support to the people of Israel at a time of great uncertainty throughout the entire Middle East, and reminds the region of the unbreakable bond between our two nations. 

It's been said an ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie on behalf of his country. With Mitt Romney set to arrive in Israel tomorrow to a warm reception from the prime minister and the people, Ambassador Oren must be under enormous pressure from the Obama team to say nice things. And Oren needs to do his best to maintain decent relations with the Obama administration while it's still in power, over the next few months. So he stooped to conquer. He expressed "profound gratitude" not to the government and people of the United States, as would have been expected and proper, but rather expressed "profound gratitude" to one person, President Barack Obama.

Such an expression of gratitude is so over-the-top, even so inappropriate, that one has to wonder whether Oren didn't intend subtly to raise questions as to its sincerity. In fact, he clearly did, as the next and central sentence of his statement indicates. Oren points out that Obama merely signed legislation that passed both Houses of Congress overwhelmingly. Obama did nothing to be profoundly grateful for. With this sentence, Oren signals that his absurdly overdone fawning before Obama isn't to be taken too seriously. It's a wink of the eye to discerning readers, a kind of Morse code blink after a mandatory hostage statement. And then there's the third sentence, with its invocation of "the unbreakable bond between our two nations," which further undercuts any notion that Obama deserves particular and extraordinary praise for signing this bill. He's doing what any American president would be doing.

So the Romney visit can proceed, and Ambassador Oren has protected his government's flank back here in Washington. Oren is a fine diplomat and an honest historian. In his statement today, he fulfills the obligations of both.

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