The Cable

Israeli ambassador stands by comments on Goldstone Report

Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, today stood by his recent opinion article that compared the writers of the U.N.-sponsored Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel of war crimes, with Holocaust deniers and asserted that the report's writers were portraying the Israeli government as Nazis.

Oren's article, published Oct. 6 in The New Republic,  has ignited some controversy online and in Washington. In it, he wrote (emphasis added):

The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves. If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all. But more insidiously, the report does not only hamstring Israel; it portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents--as Nazis. And a Nazi state not only lacks the need and right to defend itself; it must rather be destroyed.

Speaking to The Cable today, Oren defended the comparison.

"I think there is a parallel between Holocaust denial and denying Israel's right to the means and the ability to defend itself," Oren said, adding that he wasn't trying to say that the violations alleged of Israel in the January Gaza operation were of the same character or on the same scale as the Nazi atrocities.

Speaking this morning to a packed audience at the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank, Oren more extensively criticized the Goldstone Report, which will apparently be discussed at the U.N. on Oct. 14, warning that it could set a precedent that could result in U.S. troops being charged with war crimes for civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

On a separate issue, Oren said that Israeli and American negotiators were close to a deal on the issue of Israeli settlement construction as a precursor to a resumption of peace negotiations.

"The settlement issue as a major flashpoint has greatly been removed," Oren said, referring to the ongoing discussions, which include the visit of U.S. envoy George Mitchell to Jerusalem today.

"They have reached significant progress on the idea of a time-limited freeze that would not really impact Jerusalem and that would provide for a certain amount of normal growth construction," Oren said, adding that as of today there is no final agreement on the length of the freeze or the specific parameters.

He said the Palestinian side was still not happy with the proposed language, however.

Oren also reiterated that that U.S. President Barack Obama had promised Israel that the current engagement with Iran would not be open-ended and said that Israel was working with the United States on a package of sanctions for if and when the talks failed.

"In the prime minister's meeting with the president in the Oval Office [in May], the president assured us ... that the engagement would be limited, that there would be a reassessment at the end of the year," Oren said. "On the basis of that pledge, the prime minister came out and supported the president's policy of engagement, with that proviso that it would time-limited."

Subsequent developments, such as the disputed Iranian election, have spurred "a growing willingness on the part of the [Obama] administration not only to put limits on the engagement but to talk seriously about putting together a package of what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called ‘crippling sanctions' against Iran," Oren added.

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