- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TOUGH JOB

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren has a challenging job trying to promote President Obama as a friend of Israel, despite increasing tension in the relations between Jerusalem and Washington.

On Wednesday, his job got tougher.

As the Jerusalem Post reported on Mr. Oren telling the Jewish Federation of North America about the strength of U.S.-Israeli ties, other news reports revealed Mr. Obama making disparaging remarks about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S. media on Wednesday reported on Mr. Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy belittling the Israeli leader in a private conversation at the G-20 summit in France last week. Their exchange was caught on an open microphone just before a news conference.

Mr. Sarkozy said he could not stand Mr. Netanyahu and called him a “liar.”

Mr. Obama, instead of defending the leader of America’s closet ally in the Middle East, expressed his own frustration with the conservative prime minister.

“You are sick of him,” Mr. Obama said, “but I have to work with him every day.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to comment on Mr. Obama’s remarks, and the Israeli government was also silent.

A spokesman at the Israeli Embassy had nothing to say and declined to speculate on whether Mr. Obama’s words make the ambassador’s job harder.

However, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told Fox News that the president’s comment is “indicative of the attitude and policies that this administration has had toward Israel.”

Mr. Obama has been more critical of Israel than his predecessors. He was widely criticized for urging Israel to return to its 1967 borders, which Mr. Netanyahu has dismissed as indefensible.

Mr. Oren has been trying to put the best shine on U.S.-Israeli relations since he became ambassador in June 2009.

This week, Mr. Oren was again promoting the bilateral ties in remarks before the Jewish Federations’ conference in Denver.

“On big issues like Iran and Israel’s security, there’s never been disagreement,” he said.

Last month at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Mr. Oren spoke of U.S.-Israeli ties as “one of … the deepest alliances” Washington has with any other country.

However, before he was appointed ambassador, Mr. Oren predicted trouble with an Obama administration. In an analysis of the 2008 presidential election campaign, Mr. Oren wrote that Mr. Obama’s policies “are liable to strain the [U.S.-Israeli] alliance.”

MAKING UP WITH BOLIVIA

The United States and Bolivia are trying to re-establish full relations, three years after the leftist president of the South American country started a diplomatic fight that ended with the expulsion of three ambassadors and the recall of a fourth.

“We look forward to the early return of ambassadors to both Washington and La Paz and to a more productive, collaborative relationship,” the U.S. and Bolivian governments said in a joint statement released by the State Department this week.

In September 2008, Bolivian President Evo Morales accused the United States of interfering in his country’s domestic affairs. He kicked out U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

The United States responded by expelling Bolivian Ambassador Gustavo Guzman.

Venezuela’s anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, expressed his solidarity with Mr. Morales by ejecting U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy and recalling Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez from Washington.

Mr. Morales has been trying to re-establish full diplomatic relations with the United States since President Obama took office in 2009.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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