Michael Oren’s diplomatic psychobabble

Does the former Israeli ambassador really think that an imaginative psychoanalysis of Obama can explain away Netanyahu’s annexationist policies?

By Aviad Kleinberg

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to then Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, Tel Aviv, April 9, 2013. (State Dept photo)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to then Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, Tel Aviv, April 9, 2013. (State Dept photo)

Michael Oren blames President Barack Obama for ruining relations with Israel, after the latter broke two sacrosanct rules that Oren himself came up with: that the United States and Israel should not have public disagreements, and that no steps should be taken to publicly embarrass the other side.

Oren is aware, of course, of the fact that successive Israeli governments (read: Netanyahu’s governments) have openly opposed U.S. policy (for instance vis-a-vis the Iranian nuclear deal), that every so often those governments declare new rounds of settlement building in the West Bank at the least opportune moments (say, for instance, when Vice President Biden visited Israel), and that they initiate rounds of violence against the Palestinians while openly and proudly declaring their oppositional stance. Oren even knows that Israel’s prime minister gave a speech to Congress without coordinating with the Obama administration, and did so in an attempt to drive a stake through the president’s Iran policy.

Oren has some very complex explanations for these all these annoying facts: the settlement announcements were never made by the prime minister himself, the attacks on Washington’s Iran policy are of the utmost importance to Israel — and the speech to Congress? Every Israeli leader would have done the same, and so on and so on. What is it so difficult for Oren to understand? The fact that Obama does not automatically support Israel, primarily that he does not automatically accept its settlement policies? Is it that President Obama dares to meekly protest the Israeli government’s unilateral steps.

That chutzpa — that the United States has policies which it doesn’t submit for Israeli approval — astounds Oren to a degree that he feels the need to explain it. Because neither the historical nor the political tools at Oren’s disposal can explain such madness (how is it possible that Washington doesn’t accept our annexationist policies?), he turns to psychology. Obama’s mother was married to two Muslim men. Oren reveals to us that Obama saw himself as a bridge between his mother and her husbands. Oren also dares to speculate “how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.”

From now on, this is the mantra: he who does not accept Netanyahu’s annexationist policies suffers from deep-rooted psychological problems and is trying to seek acceptance in the eyes of his mother’s former husbands. In case you were wondering, Obama’s largess toward Israel — at least in the eyes of Oren — is a means for camouflaging his hostility toward us (which is expressed though his refusal to accept Netanyahu’s annexationist policies.)

But Oren’s interest in socio-psychology does not end with President Obama’s family history. Oren also has important insights into American Jews. “There were discussions in the White House in which there were six Jews – three Americans and three Israelis, discussing a Palestinian state — and the only non-Jewish person in the room was the president or the vice president.”

Since we now understand the psycho-familial roots of Obama’s hostility toward Israel, we expect those same Jews — who we hope are exempt from trying to seek the acceptance of their deadbeat Muslim dads — to support Netanyahu’s annexationist policies. And here it turns out that the Americans (the Jewish-Americans) did not meet Oren’s expectations.

Obviously, you’ll say, they are Obama’s poodles who were hand-picked to take part in a plot to seek acceptance from deadbeat dads! Actually, you’re wrong. It turns out that somehow, Obama’s advisors managed to reach the same political conclusions without having Muslim fathers.

Is that a problem? Not for Michael Oren, who believes that non-Orthodox and intermarried American Jews serving in the Obama administration “have a hard time understanding the Israeli character.”

So men: if you are Muslims, marry Muslim women. If you’re Jewish, marry a co-religionist, and it better be an Orthodox wedding. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that if you don’t act according to these rules, you may end up being a major problem for the Israeli government.

Michael Oren may be trying to analyze the Israel-U.S. relationship, but sometimes overdoing it only makes things worse. Chill out, Michael. 

Prof. Aviad Kleinberg teaches in the history department at Tel Aviv University and has a weekly column in Yedioth Ahronoth. A Hebrew version of this post first appeared on his blog.

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