Browsing Posts tagged Michael Oren

We Are Not Quitters

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Next week, we are presented with an opportunity to make history.

At the invitation of President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will come to Washington to sit face-to-face and discuss peace. I am here to tell you that, as stated at the formulation of this Israeli government, Israel is committed to seeing these talks through to reach a final agreement and a permanent end to the conflict.

In short, we are not quitters.

The road to peace has been long and will continue to be strenuous, but we will not relent. There are forces around the region that have, and will continue to try, to derail us from this pursuit. Still, Israel remains steadfast in our desire to secure a lasting peace with Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, alongside a thriving Palestinian state.

Israel is ready to sit down with the Palestinian leadership and come to resolution on the issues of concern to both peoples. After sixty years, Israelis hope the Palestinians will no longer treat us as wary neighbors but rather as regional allies and friends.

It is my sincere hope that at this historic turning point, Palestinians will join with Israel in a quest for peace.

Israel is dedicated to seeing this long elusive peace realized. We will not quit.

Michael Oren is Israel’s Ambassador to the United States

By Michael B. Oren
Friday, August 6, 2010

Rarely have the lines in the Middle East’s sands been drawn so distinctly. Arrayed on one side is the peace-seeking camp that opposes militant extremism and favors direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. On the other are the organizations, many of them surrogates for Iran, that work to undermine moderate governments and violently impede any effort for peace. continue reading…

Peace is a vision that we all share, a vision of two states—Jewish and Palestinian living side-by-side free of the fear of violence and further territorial claims. But realizing that vision will require painful sacrifices. But while our arms are extended in peace  Israel is faced with another battle, namely  the escalating campaign to deny it legitimacy—to strip Israel of its right to defend itself, even its right to exist.

We are all familiar with the Goldstone report, the spurious charge-sheet compiled by a UN council that has condemned Israel more frequently than all other countries—Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Libya—combined; the report that found Israel guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity even before it began its deliberations; the tribunal whose so-called judges included one who claimed that Hamas had only fired “one or two rockets” into Israel and that the Jews dominated British foreign policy. continue reading…

Yom Ha’atzmaut- 2010, Ambassador Michael B. Oren

One freezing dawn during Israel’s War of Independence, fifty youths in their late teens and early twenties, bearing pickaxes and shovels, climbed a rocky hill in the Galilee, barely a mile from the Lebanese border. They were about to establish a kibbutz, one of the communal settlements fostered by the Zionist movement to reclaim and cultivate the hardscrabble Israeli countryside. Similar scenes were being enacted throughout the newly created state—in the Negev, on the Sharon Plain, and in the Jerusalem Hills.

But this one was different: These fifty young people were all Americans. They came from across the United States—from Los-Angeles, Brooklyn, and Chicago. More than a few were hardened combat veterans of World War II. Many had sacrificed a comfortable college experience for sunup to sundown agricultural work and long nights of guard duty.

They came because they believed. They believed in the ideals and values they had learned as Americans and that had instilled in them a sense of responsibility for Jewish freedom everywhere. “The world in which we played hopscotch and baseball and grew to maturity was dominated by Franklin Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler,” one of the youths wrote, “The one represented Protection and Welfare… and the other… a horror… in which every Jew was a potential blood offering.”
They came, like the American pioneers centuries before, to build a state and secure its frontiers. After training at an agricultural camp in New Jersey, they departed by boat and arrived in Israel to another kibbutz founded by Americans, Ein Hashofet—the Spring of the Judge, named for Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

Brandeis, who was also the president of the American Zionist Federation, had said that every Jew, in order to be a patriotic American, must be a Zionist. And these fifty young American Jews were, indeed, patriots, the embodiment of the principles that lay at the foundation of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

They climbed the hill and broke ground for the first of a huddle of drafty shack— their new homes. And they called their kibbutz after an ancient Jewish town that had existed on that very site. They called it Sasa. Today, sixty-two years after Sasa’s founding, the kibbutz is a thriving community with a beef herd and fruit orchards.
But Sasa has changed. Along with the agricultural work started by its founders, the kibbutz today produces technical and home care products and is host to one of Israel’s most successful plastics factories. Furthermore, in recent years, Sasa has been working closely with American military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide made-in-Israel armor for U.S. vehicles. That armor which helps protect these vehicles from the hazards of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), has saved untold American lives.

And so, the children and grandchildren of Sasa’s founders uphold their commitment not only to Israel but to Israel’s historic alliance with the United States.

Israel, too, has changed—from a struggling agrarian society to a high tech powerhouse with more start-ups per capita, more patents, and scientific papers, and more Nobel Prizes per capita than any other country in the world. A nation that trails only the United States in the number of companies represented on the NASDAQ exchange.

Yet one aspect of Israel will never change and that is its values: the respect for democracy and the rule of law, the commitment to civic and personal freedom, and the yearning for peace. These are the values that we in Israel share with the people of the United States and that form the core of our unshakeable alliance.
We share the vision of a secure and recognized Jewish state of Israel living side by side with a stable and non-violent Palestinian state, and the Government of Israel is deeply committed to working with President Obama to realize that vision. Together with the United States, Israel will strive to create a Middle East—indeed, a world—free of the threats of terrorism and its extremist supporters, a world in which Israelis can live and interact peacefully with all peoples.

As one of Sasa’s founders wrote that first freezing day sixty-two years ago, “The kibbutz that we build will be dedicated not only to the renaissance of our own people, but to… the future of mankind, including our Arab neighbors.”

Sometimes, friends disagree.  By no means does that disagreement mean an end of a friendship or an increase in tension.

Photo: GPO

As Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, stated in his op-ed in the New York Times on March 18, 2010, “Israel and America enjoy a deep and multi-layered friendship, but even the closest allies can sometimes disagree. Such a disagreement began last week during Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to Israel, when a mid-level official in the Interior Ministry announced an interim planning phase in the expansion of Ramat Shlomo, a northern Jerusalem neighborhood. While this discord was unfortunate, it was not a historic low point in United States-Israel relations.”

To read Ambassador Oren’s complete op-ed, click here.

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Recently, on a University of California campus, several dozen students repeatedly and brutally interrupted my lecture. Their goal was to undermine the freedom of expression and delegitimize the Israeli state. They did not achieve it. I finished my speech, but neither did I applaud, as did many others in the audience, when the protesters were arrested and led out of the hall. I had come to that university specifically to engage with those students, to exchange ideas—complex and controversial as those ideas may be—and not only to speak but to listen. I did not exalt in their arrest; rather, I was saddened. continue reading…