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Oren and the U.S.-Israel Flap
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Oren and the U.S.-Israel Flap

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

When President Obama writes his memoirs of his years of in the White House we will learn his side of the events described by former Israeli Ambassador in Washington Michael Oren in his Wall Street Journal op-ed article and in his book, Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, officially due to be released next week. For the moment, despite the fact that Oren will already be on the promotional tour this weekend, all there is Oren’s take on U.S.-Israel relations; with the Administrations defenders and detractors jumping in on both sides.

The substance of Oren’s book is now in the hands of editors, columnists and reviewers who have jumped into the fray equipped with their advance review copies and the publisher’s blessing. For the reading public what one is getting already is two layers of spin; the biases of Oren as well as those of the reviewer (columnist/editor/publisher). What this does is reinforce and encourage all the various public biases which already exist concerning the U.S.-Israel (Bibi-Obama) relationship; at a moment when very few people have actually read the book.

For those who are genuinely concerned about the accuracy of a factual, historical analysis of what has transpired between Washington and Jerusalem over the past six and a half years, they will need to wait at least 25 years before government records are released. (A perfect example is how long it took to evaluate who in Washington facilitated and/or obstructed the efforts to resupply Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War–and all the records on this history may also not yet be public; whether it was Nixon, Kissinger, or Schlesinger?) Not so ironically, Michael Oren, the historian, and author of the prize winning book on the 1967 Six Day War know this process full well. He understands that this book is not history and, unlike the 1967 War, in this instance he is very much an interested party.

The real problem is that most of the curious public have and will form their opinions of Oren’ thesis based on the pre-publication reviews; publisher hype; and Oren’s promotional book tour. Even though many of these same people will buy the book, a very high percentage will never read much of it. For the publisher’s sales, for Oren’s personal reputation, and for Israeli politics the book’s impact already will have been achieved.

There is a serious concern here, however, beyond admiring the brilliant marketing achievement. The release of this book at this time is a further effort to ratchet up the tension between the U.S. and Israel as well between Israel’s supporters and detractors, just as the Iran negotiations reach their critical phase. It clearly will define further the personal and bi-lateral relationship between Netanyahu-Obama.  At the same time it will also permanently project Oren on to Israel’s political stage for now and for his future political career.

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