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Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren


by Rhonda Spivak, June 3, 2021

Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. says that there is “no evidence” that Palestinians want a two state solution. In a webinar put on by Honest Reporting Canada attended by 2000 people, Oren noted that Palestinians have been rejecting plans for two states, going as far back as rejecting the the Peel Commission plan of 1937, which would have given them a state. “There’s no institution building” in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, Oren pointed out, adding that Palestinians “want to come back to Jaffa” and “they want us [Israel] not to be here.” Oren emphasized that “We keep trying to sell them on a two state solution but they don’t want it.” The position of Canada and the United States is that there should be two states for two peoples,” Oren said but “No Palestinians will sign onto that because Palestinians don’t recognize us [Jews] as a people,” since they see  Jews as belonging to a religion only. ‘‘Palestinians never talk about two states for two peoples, ” Oren stressed. He also noted that  currently  West Bank Palestinians do not have any leadership, and Mahmoud Abbas’s “signature on a peace of paper would mean nothing.” Oren also pointed out that Hamas, of course, has  no vision for the end of the conflict.
Oren noted that US President Biden has taken a series of measures to assist the Palestinians, but unfortunately did not ask for anything in return from the Palestinians even though he could have. Biden renewed funding to the PA and to UNWRA that the U.S. had ceased under  President Trump, and the U.S. will reopen its consulate in East Jerusalem. Oren stated it would have been better if the U.S. had said to the Palestinians, “we’ll give you this” but you need to agree “to drop any action against Israel” at the International Criminal Court and “you need to change Palestinian textbooks” that teach kids to kill Jews. 

Oren also opined that Biden would try to “keep Israel from building too much in the West Bank to keep a two state solution option.” However, Oren noted that Biden was busy dealing with U.S.-China relations and U.S.-Russia relations and domestic issues such that “Biden will not relaunch the peace process.”
He also said Biden believes in a two state solution with East Jerusalem as being the Palestinian capital and with land swaps, such that Israel retains the major settlement blocks.
Oren spoke favourably of Donald Trump’s peace plan as “the best we have ever seen.”
On the subject of Hamas rule in Gaza, Oren stated that “Iran wants us to get bogged down in a ground war in Gaza” which would come at a tremendous human cost. Oren added that there was no option to get rid of Hamas since to do so would involv putting the PA in its place, but the PA “can’t maintain themselves”, such that the PA would need to rely on the “bayonet” of Israel to keep it in power in Gaza. In the most recent 11 day conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israel tried to restore a sense of deterrence, knowing it couldn’t uproot Hamas, but “this response is very problematic” since the international community takes issue with Israel trying to restore deterrence when it results in civilian casualties.
Oren stated that Hamas in Gaza “keeps its population hungry and thirsty” and does not build any infrastructure for its people, but Hamas is popular nonetheless. 
‘Life in Gaza is terrible because of Hamas.”
Oren also explained that Hamas claimed that the most recent flare-up in hostilities was the result of increased tensions over Israeli security forces cracking down on Palestinians on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's holiest site (also revered by Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount). Oren stressed that Palestinian protestors "had stockpiled" fireworks and rocks and stones in the Al-Aqsa mosque, and "this has not been reported." He pointed out that  Jews were gathering at the Western Wall for Jerusalem Day and if these rocks and fireworks had been lobbied at them from the Mosque compound, there could have been many injured. He noted that there will be an investigation on whether the Israeli police handled dealing with the rioters properly. The other  factor which Hamas claimed was the reason why it lobbied  over 4000 rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians was the potential evictions of  Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. Previously an Israeli Court had found that the Arabs living there could pay rent to the original Jewish owners, but 6 families did not pay rent and were slated for eviction (the Israeli court has since postponed its ruling on the evictions) 

In the most recent hostilities that Hamas began, Hamas knew it could not defeat Israel militarily, but Hamas wanted to force Israel to kill civilians. According to Oren, this is part of Hamas’s media/diplomatic strategy. When Israel responds, the “media images are brutal” and the Arab street gets upset and this “puts pressure on governments” to stop Israel from continuing to defend herself.   “The media is a tool for them[Hamas]”, Oren pointed out, adding that Hamas has not invested in bomb shelters for its population or in sirens because it doesn’t care about Gazans.
In regard to the Iron Dome missile defence system , Oren said the Iron Dome is “ a double edge sword” in that it means fewer Israelis are killed, but it also means that it looks like Israel’s response to Hamas rockets is disproportionate since Hamas doesn’t provide bomb shelters for its population. Oren noted that “I’ve actually been asked [by journalists] why doesn’t Israel provide the Iron Dome to Hamas.”
Oren recalled that after the 2014 Israel-Hamas conflict President Obama pressured Israel to allow  concrete into Gaza for rebuilding purposes. But “Obama was wrong”, because that concrete was used by Hamas to make underground tunnels, and was not used to build homes.

According to Oren, this most recent Israel-Hamas round of hostilities showed that Biden upheld Israel’s right to defend itself against two Iranian proxies, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But, at the same time, Biden wants to re-enter the Iran deal , and the U.S. will give Iran money, “which will go to strengthening its proxies Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
‘We are a resilient country”, Oren stated, adding that if Israel “can not change the headlines of the New York Times” which are not favourable to Israel, “we’ll move on” and  Israelis will enjoy their lives.
Regarding people who chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”, Oren said they are “determined to delighting each us and long for our disappearance” and there is “nothing we’ll be able to say to change their minds.”
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.