The former Israeli ambassador to the United States balances his personal story with his ambassadorial history.
American-born Israeli historian Oren (Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, 2007, etc.), who is currently a member of the Knesset, is forthright in his memoir of service as ambassador from 2009 to 2013, years of some discord between the two proud allies. A former paratrooper, his performance is on a tight rope fixed by his love at one end for the nation where he was born and, at the other, the beloved spiritual land of his forefathers. Beyond the speeches and state dinners, crisis management was a constant duty, as terrorism never abated (in 1996, Oren’s sister-in-law was killed by a Hamas bomber). He represented Israel during the ill-fated Arab Spring, and Turkey, once friendly, turned hostile. Visiting Vice President Joe Biden was twice offended, and Oren was blindsided by unsanctioned announcements of increased settlements. There was turmoil in Egypt and, internationally, calls for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against Israel. Amid burgeoning anti-Semitism, there arose an existential threat with Iran’s steady march toward nuclear weaponry—not to mention an often hostile press. Oren has seen shifts toward abandonment of the working paradigms of the historic alliance, and his characterizations of various key legislators, government functionaries, and ill-informed pundits are deft and pointed. The author is candid in his admiration of his former boss, Benjamin Netanyahu. Less warm is his assessment of the American president, whom the former ambassador found sometimes inspiring but too often cerebral, remote, and deficient in understanding the political machinations of the Middle East. Throughout, the author proves a genuine, ardent advocate for the well-being of his beleaguered homeland and its ongoing alliance with the land of his birth.
Even before its publication, Oren’s book has been attacked, based on culls of provocative pieces. Readers would do well to attend to the entire text of this fluent, important political memoir.