I interviewed Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer on today’s show and asked both about Jimmy Carter’s condemnation of Israel and about President Obama’s response to the Carter comments.
Ambassador Oren on Carter:
HH: Well, I want to begin with this afternoon, the Carter Center issued a statement that “expresses regret for loss of life, and condemns the unprovoked and illegal Israeli assault on the humanitarian Gaza aid flotilla in international waters.” It then goes on to quote former President Carter as saying directly, “these tragic deaths are a terrible reminder that the failed policy of besieging Gaza mainly hurts civilians.” President Carter goes on to say, “there is no way to realize the goal of a two-state solution as long as the people of Gaza remain isolated and deprived of their basic human rights.” And then the Carter Center closes after a direct quote from Carter by saying, “the frequent use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force against civilian targets with impunity must end for peace and justice to prevail in the Middle East.” Your reaction, Ambassador Oren?
MO: Well, it’s quite extraordinary, Hugh. Let’s see. We have in Gaza an organization called Hamas, which violently overthrew the legitimate Palestinian leadership there, killed 350 of them, threw them off the top of roves, an organization that states in its covenant that its goal is the destruction of the state of Israel, and the destruction of the Jewish people worldwide, which proceeded to fire 10,000 rockets into Israel, forcing Israel to put a naval blockade to deny Hamas further rockets. And we are the aggressors? Let me get this straight. I think you have to be, you know, I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t talk about the psychology behind this, the pathology. But I think you have to be deeply, morally corrupt and distorted to issue a statement like that.
Ambassador Oren on Hillary Clinton’s statement that the blockade was “unsustainable”:
HH: It was said yesterday by Secretary of State Clinton that the boycott, the embargo, is unsustainable in the waters off of Gaza. Does Israel agree with that, Mr. Ambassador?
MO: We agree that we’d like to find a better way of denying Hamas rockets. If the Secretary of State has ideas about how that might be done, we would be very, very happy to hear them. And we’ll be anxious to hear her suggestions.
HH: Unsustainable is code, though, and not very hard to decipher code, this can’t go on, this has to end. Will Israel abandon this boycott if Hamas remains in power in Gaza?
MO: We will not.
HH: Is that an absolute commitment that they will not walk away and allow ships that have not been inspected to land there?
MO: We will not.
HH: Let me ask you about the idea…
MO: Hugh, we cannot. We cannot. You have to understand that missiles coming, rockets coming to Gaza through the tunnels can come in one at a time. And that’s bad enough. They now have missiles that can reach downtown Tel Aviv. But if ships are allowed in, they can bring in thousands of rockets. We have intercepted three of these ships already, massively laden with munitions. If you want Hamas to become an Iranian state on the Mediterranean, not only will it mortally threaten Israel, it will kill any chance of peace, because the Palestinian Authority will also crumble. I don’t think any administration wants to see that happen.
Ambassador Oren on Turkey:
HH: All right, now Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey said Israel is going to lose its oldest and strongest ally in the Middle East region today because of this event. What’s your response to that, Mr. Ambassador?
MO: I think that in the last few years, you’ve seen a stark turn in Turkish policy. Israel’s policy have remained exactly the same. There’s been no change. And it’s the Turkish government, the Turkish government has changed. It has become an Islamic-oriented government. It has turned away from the West. It has positioned itself as a friend of Iran, a friend of Hamas, both of which have sworn to destroy the state of Israel. They have canceled our participation in joint maneuvers, military maneuvers that have been held for a great many years. And they canceled it well in advance of this issue, of this episode. Now we do, we value our relations with Turkey. We do not want to see a further deterioration. But it is Turkey that has changed, not Israel, and we look forward to Turkey reaching out to us and saying you know, you want that relationship, we’re still your friends….
HH: I now have the specific statement of Prime Minister Erdogan, Mr. Ambassador. He says Israel stands to lose its closest ally in the Middle East if it does not change its mentality. Turkey tried to preserve their relationship, but the Israeli government did not understand this, and performed a historical mistake. This mistake is not only against Turkey, it is against civilians from 32 different countries. Violent policies will not bring about a positive outcome. We will not avert our eyes from violence like this. Mr. Ambassador specific response to this?
MO: Again, we reached out to Turkey in an attempt to prevent this incident, to get the Turkish flotilla to pass its cargo onto us. The Turkish response was that they couldn’t control their NGOs. They weren’t in control. But now, they seem to be very much in control. It seems to me you can’t have it both ways. As I said earlier, Israeli policy has not changed. Turkish policy has changed. And I think if the Turks want to play a meaningful role in Middle East diplomacy, and I get the sense that they do want to play that, they have to have reasonable, if not friendly relations with the state of Israel, because we, too, are major players.