Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Question About Ambassador Oren

Here's an issue I've been thinking about for quite a while but never blogged about. Ever since Michael B. Oren's appointment as Israel's ambassodor to the United States was announced last year I've been thinking that this is a problematic choice. I have nothing against Oren himself. He's a right-winger, but not a nut, and has proved himself to be quite a capable diplomat, even though he was an academic before he was chosen for the post. What bothers me about him is what some might see as a technicality, and others will see as a major problem.

Michael Oren was born in the United States, and from the time he immigrated to Israel and until his appointment as ambassador he was a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. The United States does not allow its own citizens to serve as a foreign county's representatives in the States, and so, Oren had to renounce his American citizenship to be accepted by the United States as Israel's ambassador.

People in Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said that the fact that Oren is American makes him understand American politics and diplomacy better, and so he's better equipped to serve Israel's interests in America. That might be true. But wouldn't such an appointment also offend many Americans priding themselves as patriots, who would see the new ambassador's renunciation of his American citizenship, and thus his American identity, in favor of serving a foreign government, as an act of treason on his part?

Ambassador Oren has been in office since the summer of 2009. I haven't heard of any American officials expressing their discomfort with his status as a former American. Still, the question remains whether there are people whose support Israel needs who are quietly offended by this.

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