Michael Oren: Today, you’ll find that Israel today is pointedly and emphatically less isolated than at any other time in its history. To the best of my knowledge, we’ve yet to make peace with Palestinians.
Our relationship with Latin America is at an unprecedented high. We’ve had the Prime Minister be the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit any country south of the United States of America. Now he’s visited four.
There are 51 countries in Africa, most of which cut off relations with us after the Arab boycott of the 1970’s, that have renewed relations with us. They’re standing in line to strengthen those relationships with us. Our relationships with Eastern Europe, the former Soviet bloc countries, are excellent.
We didn’t have relationships with China or India 30 years ago. They are our biggest trading partners outside of Europe today. With India, we also have a strategic relationship, an alliance.
And then we have the Sunni Arab world. I would venture to say that the Sunni Arab states no longer view us as an enemy state, but more to the point they view us as an allied state — an important ally.
These are sea changes. Much of the improvement in our foreign relations has been driven by Israeli technology, and our technology is in areas that everybody needs. Everyone needs water technology. Israel leads the world in water technology.
Beyond that, Israel is perceived in the world today as a power. There was one international metric that had us as the eighth most powerful country in the world. This is a function of the IDF, which is today more than twice as big as the British and French armies combined. Add our ability to project power and to maintain close relationships with the leading powers of the world, whether they be Russia, China, or the United States, and Israel is uniquely positioned.
OR: Do you see a future for the two-state solution?
Oren: Our youth does not remember the Camp David Accords, doesn’t remember the Oslo Accords. What it remembers is Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza to make peace. We didn’t get peace. We got thousands of rockets launched at us. They made the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, and we got thousands dead from suicide bombs. You cannot convince this young Israeli generation that by giving up territory or supporting a Palestinian state, you’re going to get anything other than more dead Israelis.
OR: What do you see as an ultimate solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would allow the region to formally recognize a relationship with Israel?
Oren: If you recognize that we have a two-state situation and you say to yourself, “How can we make this two-state situation, this two-state reality more stable and give the Palestinians a greater diplomatic horizon? How can we do it and give ourselves the assurance of continued security, and not uproot settlements — because Israel’s not about to do that — and enable the Middle East to move on from this conflict?”
OR: How do you assess the current, seemingly rising trend of international demonization of Israel?
Oren: The most recent trope that I’m encountering is Israel is guilty of genocide against the Palestinians. That libel has established itself very rapidly, is becoming a given. And nothing could be further from the truth.
In terms of explaining Israel, of course we can do a better job. That’s a matter of policy on the part of the State of Israel. Right now, we earmark roughly $50 million a year to fighting delegitimization, fighting anti-Semitism. That’s the cost of, maybe, a couple of platoons of tanks.