Thanks to a reader who points out that Maariv is reporting that Bibi Netanyahu’s new ambassador to the U.S. will likely be Michael Oren of the Shalem Center Likudist think tank. The organization is heavily supported by Sheldon Adelson and boasts Natan Sharansky as one of its key members.
The potential appointment would represent a triumph of the Center as it wheedles its way into the Israeli and U.S. political mainstream. Now, Adelson will have his man at his beck and call in Israel’s D.C. embassy.
In some ways, the appointment makes perfect sense and in some ways it makes little or no sense. Michael Oren is a smooth-talking, cool, calculating intellectual egghead best known for his Wall Street Journal columns extolling his PR flackery for the Gaza war and other rightist conceits. He’s written a fairly well-received book making the questionable claim that America’s traditions and core values have been philo-Zionist going back to our Puritan ancestors. One of my readers who’s heard him speak publicly calls him in an entirely unscientific evaluation “the most self-righteous, self-aggrandizing idiot” he’s ever heard.
So on the one hand Oren is wise to the ways of American politics and the corridors of Washington power. He probably won’t embarrass Bibi as a staunch Liebermanite would in this position. But on the other hand, Oren will have no cachet in a liberal Obama administration. His views will be totally out of touch with those of the policymakers with whom he will interact. At most, Oren will be able to put a brave, articulate face on Israeli policies which will find little resonance in the White House. It doesn’t exactly put Israel’s best foot forward in D.C.
Further, Oren has little actual political or diplomatic experience which will put him somewhat behind the 8-ball in Washington. That doesn’t mean he won’t acquit himself well if he’s a quick study and adept at learning the ropes fast. There are a number of academics and think tank types who’ve become political operatives and diplomats. So it can be done. But Oren carries a lot of baggage and won’t exactly be welcomed with open arms (except by the Lobby and rightist Republican circles).