MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. said Tuesday that he expects to have a continued good working relationship with President Barack Obama’s administration despite changes in the U.S. diplomatic corps.
Michael Oren said after delivering the Landon Lecture at Kansas State University that he did not expect much change if Sen. John Kerry is confirmed to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
“I’m sure that Sen. Kerry, whom I know very well, is going to committed and active in the pursuit of peace and welcome his contribution,” Oren said.
“The last four years, the Obama administration and the state of Israel have had excellent relations,” he said. “Any differences we’ve had regarding the peace process, we believe we’ve gone beyond them. Today, you don’t see those same differences.”
He said the security agreement between the nations is viewed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as “the best ever.” Oren has worked with Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta and said he had every reason to believe that the strength of the relationship would continue going forward.
The ambassador also said Israeli officials have met with Chuck Hagel, who has been nominated to lead the Department of Defense. He said Israel has been assured that Hagel considers Israel a partner with the United States.
Several Republican senators, including Pat Roberts of Kansas, have been critical of the Hagel nomination, citing statements the former senator from Nebraska has made in previous years about the influence of pro-Israel supporters in Washington and what the best course of action is in negotiating with Iran over nuclear weapons and peace in the Middle East.
Roberts said recently that despite his friendship with Hagel, he opposed Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary.
Hagel, a former Republican senator, has been criticized for statements he has made regarding Israeli influence in Washington and how best to deal with Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and influence in the Middle East.
Oren was appointed Israel’s ambassador to Washington in 2009. He was born in New York and educated at Columbia and Princeton and has written several books about Israel and the Middle East. During his hour-long lecture to students and faculty, Oren traced the origins of the Israeli-American alliance to the landing of the Pilgrims in New England through the United States recognition of Israel as an independent state in 1948.
Oren said the concerns of the United States about a nuclear-equipped Iran are even stronger in Israel because of the Iranian state’s daily vow to annihilate Israel. He said the worries stretch beyond mere possession of the weapons to the possible transfer of the weapons to terrorists.
“You do not want these people to have nuclear weapons. You do not,” he said.
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