Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, discussed how the recent prisoner swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit strengthened Israeli society among other topics at a breakfast for reporters sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren grew up in the United States, then became an Israeli citizen. He has a PhD from Princeton University, is a bestselling author, and served in the Israel Defense Forces. He became ambassador in 2009. He was guest speaker at the Monitor breakfast on Oct. 25 in Washington.
Israel's relations with the US:
"We have differences over tactical elements of the peace process ... related to ways in which we can get to the two-state solution.... [Differences] have to be seen in context of the relationship ... one of, if not the, most multifaceted and deepest alliances this country, the United States, has had with any foreign power in the post-World War II period."
Effect of the Arab Spring on Israel:
"The Arab Spring is still in an inchoate period.... It is going to take us a while to see how it plays out.... The Arab world is also focusing on their internal challenges.... Eventually they will address the question of [their] relationship with Israel, and I hope they address it in a positive way."
Continued antigovernment protests in Syria:
"We do see a possible ouster of [President Bashar al-] Assad as affording an opportunity to us. We think that would possibly weaken the alliance between Syria and Iran. It would possibly loosen the Syrian stranglehold of Lebanon."
The exchange of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit:
"[It] goes to the heart of Israeli society – the relationship between the state of Israel and the army of Israel.... We the people of Israel go out and fight ... with the understanding that should anything ... happen to us ... the state will do everything in its power to secure our release. [I]f you were to ask Israelis ... whether the Gilad Shalit issue weakened or strengthened the state of Israel, they would say strengthened because it strengthened, it reaffirms, that social contract."
The threat from Iran:
"You can bet Iran is going to continue to try to produce nuclear military capabilities and ... they have progressed apace in that effort. And we can be pretty assured that Iran will continue to try to support terrorist organizations in the Middle East and terrorist operations outside of the Middle East."
Palestinians' efforts to win statehood recognition from the United Nations:
"Since November of 1967 ... the peace process, as it has come to be known, has been conducted under a guiding principle. It is enshrined in [UN] Resolution 242 – territory for peace. What the Palestinians are attempting to do in the UN is to get territory without peace. So it is a violation not only of their agreements with us and agreements with the United States, but it is a contravention of the essential principle that has guided the peace process since its beginning in 1967."