Michael Oren at AACI

I went with my daughter Miriam and son-in-law Jeff to a brunch in Jerusalem in honor of her and the 5 other members of the staff of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) who are advisers for English-speaking immigrants to Israel.  It was a lovely event and the ladies were justifiably praised for their dedicated service.  But, what I want to write about is the presentation given by Michael Oren, currently a Deputy Minster in the Israeli Government and previously the Israeli Ambassador to the US. Oren is a very talented individual, a practising historian whose books have won great acclaim.

His talk was without notes, breezy and energetic.  He spoke about his favorite subject, Israel and America.  He pointed out that when he was first appointed an official of the Israeli Government, he was required by US law to give up his American citizenship.  He had to go to the US Embassy, then in Tel Aviv, and swear that he understood the rights he was giving up, then they took his passport and punched a big hole right thru it.

But, he pointed out that much of what he was and had learned as an American went with him into his Israeli Government service.  Including a commitment to truth, democracy and civil rights.  He pointed out the dilemma that in Israel, which does not have a written constitution, like the British, there are members of the Knesset representing the Arab sector of the population, which make us ca. 20% of the total, who are completely committed to the destruction of the State that they are supposed to serve.  Some Arab MKs have committed downright treasonous acts, for example one member has applied to the UN thru the Palestinian Authority for Israel to be censured for its actions in Gaza.

In the US Constitution, Article 5, there is a specific requirement that any treasonous act by a Member of Congress would be followed by a hearing and the expulsion of that Member.  But, no such law exists in Israel.  He has introduced a Bill in the Knesset to expel any Member who acts treasonously to the State, and that would have to be proven.

But, at the same time, he recognizes that the 20% of the population who are Arabs need to be integrated into the fabric of Israeli life.  In this respect, his experiences in the civil rights movement in the USA have helped him a lot.  When he was Ambassador in Washington he introduced the celebration of the Id al Fitr feast that ends Ramadan there, and that is continued still.

He is concerned about the peace plan that the Trump Administration is working on.  Trump and his team are very pro-Israel in many respects, but as Trump likes to make a deal, this requires hard concessions from both sides.  Maybe the Palestinians will not cooperate with Trump, but if they do then Israel might have to make concessions that the current Government is not prepared to do.  But, how could they deny anything to such a friend as Trump.  This remains to be seen.

In conclusion, some people have asked him about the difference in being an American and an Israeli.  He said that no Government functionary could put a hole thru his Israeli passport and deny his essential right to be Jewish in his Homeland, Israel.