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Ambassador Discusses US-Israel Relations At USC Annenberg

Lior Haykeen |
January 18, 2013 | 1:24 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Dean of Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Ernest Wilson interviewing Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren after Oren's speech (Lior Haykeen).
Dean of Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Ernest Wilson interviewing Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren after Oren's speech (Lior Haykeen).
The Israeli Ambassador to the US insisted on Thursday that the two countries have a strong relationship, despite evidence that suggests a growing sense of mistrust between Washington D.C. and Jerusalem.

The relationship between Israel and the US is profound and unique, said Michael Oren during a lecture at the Annenberg Auditorium yesterday. But experts have recently deemed Israeli-American relations to be full of mistrust and lacking in confidence.

Oren cited a list of evidence to more than 200 USC students to back up his claim. On his list: Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has a memorial for 9/11, and the only state in the region that has streets named after American presidents. He also noted the US also provides about $1 billion worth of underground military equipment to the state of Israel.  

"[This] relationship is unlike the relationship the United States has with any other country," Oren said as he noted that the US invests about $90 billion in Israel while Israel invests almost $60 billion in the US yearly.

Oren's speech, however, lacked any mention of the current icy relationship between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren (Left) receiving a USC Hillel t-shirt from Executive Director of USC Hillel Michael Jeser.
Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren (Left) receiving a USC Hillel t-shirt from Executive Director of USC Hillel Michael Jeser.
Frustration between Obama and Netanyahu has soured relations between the two countries. Obama was recently quoted saying that Netanyahu is a "political coward" who does not know what Israel's best interest is, according to Times of Israel.

Meanwhile, Aaron David Miller, a former American diplomat, told the Times of Israel that the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu is "the most dysfunctional" he's ever seen between an American president and an Israeli prime minister.

The Inquirer News published an article this week that cited "an American columnist with close ties to the White House," describing Obama's "disdain for Netanyahu" and "warning that Israel's all-important relations with the US could suffer unprecedented ways if the Israeli government doesn't change its policies."

Some of the protesters identify themselves as Jewish, and belong to an organization called Jewish Voice for Peace, which insists that Oren does not speak for all Jews in the United States.During his stay at USC, Oren could see a group of about 30 protesters demonstrating peacefully against his cause.

Protester Ann Capotosto demonstrating outside the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism before Michael Oren's lecture. (Photo by Neon Tommy)
Protester Ann Capotosto demonstrating outside the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism before Michael Oren's lecture. (Photo by Neon Tommy)

"Michael Oren's job is to go around and pink-wash Israel's face," said Marsha Steinberg, a Jewish protester. "As an American Jew, I find it offensive the Michael Oren implies that all Jews in the US agree with Israel."

"That is simply not true," Steinberg added.

Other protestors arrived at Annenberg independently to speak out against Israeli policies.

Protester Ann Capotosto said that the infrastructure of many Palestinians has been bombed to bits. Israelis have stopped needed aid from reaching Gaza and have destroyed Palestinian water supplies.

"I'm here because of the war crimes that have been perpetrated against the people of Gaza," said Capotosto, a protester holding a sign that carries the words "free Palestine." 

Oren was born in New Jersey and educated at Columbia and Princeton. He had been a visiting professors at universities such as Harvard, Yale and Georgetown. He often speaks at locations throughout the United States.

Reach Staff Reporter Lior Haykeen here.

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