By Dylan Matthews
For those of us with a weird obsession with knowing who contenders are for various Deputy Assistant Secretary of State posts or senior directorships on the NSC, Laura Rozen's The Cable has been like crack ever since it launched in January. However, as the administration has filled up, the wonk gossip has gotten quite limited. Thankfully, Israel also has a new government, which means there's a whole new set of appointments for Rozen to report on. First up, the ambassadorship to the US:
Michael Oren, a senior fellow and scholar of Middle Eastern diplomatic and military history at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's choice to be his ambassador to Washington, sources in Israel and Washington say.
Hearing the appointment was a done deal, a plugged-in Washington Middle East hand said Netanyahu's choice for the key post of a historian with strong ties to the neoconservatives who never previously served in any diplomatic function was slightly puzzling. "Not sure Netanyahu understands the changes in D.C.," he said.
To be sure, Oren is a smart guy, and he certainly won't be the main Israeli actor on something as important as US-Israel relations. That being said, this doesn't augur well at all for Iran policy. We already know that Netanyahu hasn't backed down from his enthusiasm about eliminating the Iranian nuclear program by force, and picking Oren is certainly in line with the pursuit of a military option. He and his frequent coauthor Yossi Klein Halevi not only responded to the Gaza invasion by blaming it on Iran of all actors, they also wrote a long piece for The New Republic in 2007 explicitly advocating an Israeli attack to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He's a hawk's hawk, and given how well-connected he is to the American policy and journalism world, he's the ideal person to sell an Israeli airstrike on the enrichment facilities at Natanz to DC elites.
Obviously, we don't know if that's why Netanyahu picked him. I sure hope that's not why Netanyahu picked him. But it's hard to think of another reason, and Oren's record on the issue is difficult to ignore. Ultimately, the appointment is less consequential in itself than in what it says about the Netanyahu's thinking, and far as I can tell picking Oren says nothing promising about the his willingness to exercise restraint regarding Iran.