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Michael Oren

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Subject: Origins of the Six-Day War, USS Liberty incident, Controversies relating to the Six-Day War, Israel–United States relations, Sallai Meridor
Collection: 1955 Births, Ambassadors of Israel to the United States, American Emigrants to Israel, American Essayists, American Male Novelists, American Male Writers, American Political Writers, American Zionists, Columbia University Alumni, Harvard University Faculty, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty, Historians of the Middle East, Israeli Essayists, Israeli Historians, Israeli Jews, Israeli Political Writers, Israeli Soldiers, Jewish American Historians, Jewish American Novelists, Kulanu Politicians, Living People, MacCabiah Games Gold Medalists, Male Essayists, Members of the 20Th Knesset (2015–), Naturalized Citizens of Israel, People from West Orange, New Jersey, People Who Lost United States Citizenship, Princeton University Alumni, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University Alumni, Tel Aviv University Faculty, Writers from New Jersey
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Michael Oren

Michael Oren
Oren in August 2010
Israeli Ambassador to the United States
In office
July 20, 2009 – September 30, 2013
Preceded by Sallai Meridor
Succeeded by Ron Dermer
Personal details
Born Michael Scott Bornstein
(1955-05-20) May 20, 1955
New York, U.S.
Citizenship Israeli (1979–present)[1]
American (1955–2009)
Spouse(s) Sally Edelstein (m. 1982; 3 children)
Alma mater Columbia University
Princeton University
Religion Judaism
Military service
Allegiance State of Israel
Service/branch Israel Defense Forces
Michael Oren
Year of aliyah 1979
Knessets 20
Faction represented in Knesset
2015– Kulanu

Michael B. Oren (Hebrew: מיכאל אורן; born Michael Scott Bornstein; May 20, 1955) is an American-born Israeli historian, author, politician, former ambassador to the United States (2009-2013), and current member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party.[2]

Oren has written books, articles, and essays on Tel Aviv and Hebrew universities in Israel. He was a Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a contributing editor to The New Republic. The Forward named Oren one of the five most influential American Jews and The Jerusalem Post listed him as one of the world’s ten most influential Jews.

Oren retired as ambassador to the United States in 2013, replaced by Ron Dermer.[3] In the 2015 Israeli election, Oren was elected to the Knesset for the centrist Kulanu party.[4] His newest book Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide was published by Random House on June 23, 2015.[5]


  • Personal life and background 1
  • Military service 2
  • Academic career 3
  • Ambassadorship 4
  • Writings 5
    • Political commentary 5.1
    • Middle East history 5.2
    • Fiction 5.3
  • Knesset career 6
  • Published work 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Personal life and background

Oren was born Michael Scott Bornstein in upstate New York, the son of Marilyn (née Goldstein), a marriage and family therapist, and Lester Milton Bornstein, a hospital director.[6][7] His father was an officer in the U.S. Army who took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and participated in the Korean War.[8] Oren grew up in West Orange, New Jersey, in a Conservative Jewish household, where he attended West Orange High School.[6][9] As the only Jewish boy in a heavily Catholic neighborhood, he says he experienced antisemitism. In his youth, he was an activist in Zionist and Jewish youth groups such as United Synagogue Youth. A meeting with then–Israeli ambassador to the United States, Yitzhak Rabin, strengthened Oren's decision to move to Israel.[10] Reading about Rabin sparked Oren's interest in the Israeli ambassadorship to Washington, a post he would eventually attain.[1] Oren won two gold medals at the 1977 Maccabiah Games in rowing, a sport in which he is still active.[11] At age 15, he made his first trip to Israel with youth movement Habonim Dror, working on Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.[8] In 1973, Oren won first prize in the PBS National Young Filmmaker’s contest for the film, Comrades in Arms, which he wrote and directed. In the summer of 1976, he worked as gofer for Orson Welles.

In 1977, Oren completed his undergraduate degree from Columbia College. He continued his studies at Columbia, receiving a Masters in International Affairs in 1978 from the School of International and Public Affairs, where he was an International Fellow and a DACOR Fellow.[12] After college, he spent a year as an adviser to the Israeli delegation to the United Nations.[8] In 1979, Oren emigrated to Israel.[13] A few years later, Oren returned to the United States to continue his education, studying at Princeton University. In 1986, he earned an MA and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton.[14]

In 1982, he married Sally Edelstein, who had been born in San Francisco and had immigrated to Israel in 1981. They have three children.[15][16] In a popular article by Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic profiled Sally's acquaintance with rock stars Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane, which wrote two songs about her in the 1960s.[17]

Oren's nephew is comedian Jon Rudnitsky.[18]

Military service

In 1979, Oren began his military service in the Israel Defense Forces. He served as a paratrooper in the 1982 Lebanon War.[19] His unit was caught in a Syrian ambush on the second day of the war. His commander was killed and nearly everyone was wounded. He then joined a unit stationed in Sidon. A day after his wedding, in the summer of 1982, Oren returned to Beirut.[8]

Following his regular military service, Oren volunteered to work with the Zionist underground in the Soviet Union. Sent to make contact with Zionist groups in Ukraine, he was repeatedly arrested by the KGB.[20]

During the Persian Gulf War he was Israeli liaison officer to the U.S. Sixth Fleet.[19] He was called up for reserve duty for the 2005 Gaza disengagement, and participated in the evacuation of settlements.[21] He served as an officer in the IDF Spokesman's Office during the 2006 Lebanon War.[19] and the 2008–2009 Gaza War.[22]

In February 2009, he delivered a lecture at [23] The Today Show broadcast a special segment, "The Oren Family at War."[24]

Academic career

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Oren taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University.[19] In 1995, during the government of Yitzhak Rabin, Oren served as an advisor in inter-religious affairs at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.[19]

In 2006, Oren was a visiting professor at both School of Foreign Service for the 2008–09 academic year as part of the faculty associated with the Program for Jewish Civilization.[25][26]

President Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[27]

While working at a think-tank in Jerusalem, Oren publicly opposed the 2003 Iraq war, believing at the time that America "should not get involved in state-building in a region where states are only held together by savage central power".[28]


On May 3, 2009, Oren was appointed as ambassador of Israel to the United States by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, succeeding Sallai Meridor. Ambassador Oren had to give up his United States citizenship in order to assume this post.[29]

Oren strongly condemned the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict report, which determined Israel was guilty of possible war crimes. In an October 2009 op-ed in The New Republic, he stated, "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."[30]

In October 2009, Oren declined an invitation to attend a conference hosted by J Street, an Israel advocacy group, which has been critical of the Israel government's foreign policy.[31] Oren called J Street "a unique problem" and that "it's significantly out of the mainstream."[32] However, the two have since come to a more congenial understanding, with Oren stating that "J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman's Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone Report; it has denounced the British court's decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream."[33]

Oren has initiated Israel outreach events for Irish Americans,[34] Latino[35] and LGBT leadership, and the Chinese embassy. He hosted the Israeli embassy’s first Iftar dinner.[36]

On February 8, 2010, Oren spoke at the University of California, Irvine. During his speech Oren was interrupted by 11 protesters who shouted, "Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech",[37] and "How many Palestinians did you kill?"[38] The outburst and subsequent arrest of the protesters sparked controversy over whether the protesters were exercising free speech, as they claimed they were, or whether it was a suppression of free speech (i.e., of the right of Oren and his audience to a free exchange of ideas), as university officials claimed.[39] On September 23, 2011, a jury convicted 10 Muslim students, 7 from UC Irvine and 3 from UC Riverside, of disrupting Oren's February 2010 speech. The students were sentenced to 56 hours of community service and three years of informal probation, which could be lessened to one year if the community service is completed by the end of January 2012.[40]

Oren has continued to lecture at universities across the United States, including Harvard University, Emory University, University of California, Davis, University of Chicago, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, Penn State, Rice University, Dickinson College, Florida International University, Columbia University, University of Maryland, American University, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and the United States Naval Academy.[41]

Following the Gaza embargo". He further made the claim that the Mavi Marmara was "a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means".[42]

Oren attempted to influence a critical 2012 CBS report by Bob Simon about Palestinian Christians in Israel,[43] with some calling his interference an attempt to silence the American media.[44] Oren responded that at no point had he tried to prevent the 60 Minutes report, rather that he offered suggestions for balancing the segment.[44][45]

On July 5, 2013, he announced that he would be vacating his post as ambassador to the United States in fall 2013.[3] According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, insiders say that Oren wanted to keep his job, but was removed because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's senior advisor Ron Dermer wanted the envoy post.[46]

Oren has received four honorary doctorates and has delivered commencement speeches at Brandeis,[47] Monmouth University,[48] and Yeshiva University.[49] In 2011, he received the Outstanding Achievers with Learning Disabilities Award from the Lab School of Washington, D.C.[50] He delivered the keynote address at 2012 Equality Forum on LGBT rights in Israel.[51]


Political commentary

Oren has written many articles commenting on current political issues. Before assuming his diplomatic post, he published frequently in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic, where he was a contributing editor.[52] He appeared on Charlie Rose, The Daily Show,[53] the Today Show, and he John Batchelor Show. As ambassador, he has published nearly forty op-eds and has given dozens of television interviews, including Bill Maher, Colbert Report, The View, and The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

His two full-length articles "Israel: The Ultimate Ally"[54] and "Israel's Resilient Democracy",[55] were published in Foreign Policy magazine.

In July 2014 Oren argued against a ceasefire and for the continuation of the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, calling on the international community to leave Israel alone to defang and deprive Hamas of its heavy arms and make it pay a "prohibitive cost."[56]

On June 15, 2015 Oren gave a speech at the Leonardo Hotel in Jerusalem, in which he said that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement poses a "strategic threat" to Israel, which needs to fight it "like a war, which it is". He also warned that the U.S. is gambling with Israel's future over Iran, saying that the U.S. "can afford to make a mistake" with them, while "Israel has zero room for error", adding: "The United States has the most powerful army in all of history, they're thousands of miles away from Iran, and they don't feel any direct threat. Israel is in Iran's backyard, and faces a clear and direct threat from Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The IDF is a strong military force, but does not have the capacity and magnitude the US Army has to deter aggression."[57]

Also during June 2015, an op-ed piece by Oren published in the Wall Street Journal claimed that Barack Obama had deliberately sabotaged US-Israeli relations, resulting in Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon distancing himself and the party from Oren's stated views.[58] Shortly afterwards another article by Oren was published by Foreign Policy, which argued that Obama's outreach to the Muslim world as highlighted by his Cairo speech was partly rooted in "abandonment" by his father and stepfather.[59] Oren was criticised by Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who said that Oren's theorising "veers into the realm of conspiracy theories... with an element of amateur psychoanalysis", and characterised the Foreign Policy article as "borderline stereotyping".[60]

In 2015, Oren published Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide (June 2015), which aimed to describe the recent state of Israel–US relations.[61] The book has received both praise and criticism,[62] including a negative review by Philip Gordon, the White House's "point man" for the Middle East during Oren's time as ambassador.[63] In response to its controversial reception, Oren stated: "So far a lot of things have been said about me. ... I obviously touched a nerve."[64]

Middle East history

Power, Faith and Fantasy, a history of American involvement in the Middle East, was published by Norton and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. Power, Faith and Fantasy earned positive reviews from Newsweek, The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Willamette Week.[65][66][67][68][69]

Oren's Six Days of War is an historical account of the events of the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The book was widely praised by critics[1] and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History and the National Jewish Book Award. It spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.[70] The New York Times Book Review wrote positively of Six Days of War,[71] as did the Washington Post, which called it "not only the best book so far written on the Six Day War, it is likely to remain the best".[72] Oren's Ph.D. thesis, "The Origins of the Second Arab-Israel War: Israel, Egypt, and the Great Powers, 1952-1956," was published in 1992.


Oren has written two works of fiction. Sand Devil, published in 2000, is a trilogy of novellas set in the Negev desert. Reunion, based on his father’s stories from World War II, appeared in 2004.

Knesset career

Oren was given the fourth spot on the list of the new Kulanu party before Israel's 2015 elections, adding foreign policy credentials to a party that campaigned almost exclusively on economic issues.[73] He was elected and, on March 31, sworn in as a Member of Israel's 20th Knesset, serving on its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Published work

  • Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Presidio Press. (2002) ISBN 978-0-345-46192-6.
  • Reunion. New York: Plume. (2003) ISBN 978-1-931561-26-6.
  • Power, Faith and Fantasy: The United States in the Middle East, 1776 to 2006. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. (2007) ISBN 978-0-393-33030-4.
  • New Essays on Zionism. Shalem Press. (2007) ISBN 978-965-7052-44-0 (editor, with David Hazony and Yoram Hazony).
  • Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide. Random House. (2015) ISBN 978-081-2996-41-8.


  1. ^ a b c "Israeli Ambassador Draws on American Roots". 
  2. ^ "Michael Oren appointed to US envoy role", Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2009
  3. ^ a b "Ron Dermer officially named Israel’s U.S. ambassador". JTA. July 9, 2013. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Mr. Oren goes to Jerusalem (from Washington)". Ha'aretz. March 20, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  5. ^ 06/10/2015
  6. ^ a b Ginsberg, Johanna. "Former New Jerseyan to be Israel's Envoy to U.S.; Author Michael Oren was Mountain High and Princeton grad", New Jersey Jewish News, May 7, 2009. Accessed November 19, 2012.
  7. ^ Turk Rosenblatt, Judith (1987). Who's Who in World Jewry: A Biographical Dictionary of Outstanding Jews. Who's Who in World Jewry. p. 64.  
  8. ^ a b c d "Enjoying Every Minute", Haaretz
  9. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth. "Israeli Diplomat Is Man in Middle", New York Times, September 17, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012. "Raised in a conservative Jewish family in West Orange, N.J., Mr. Oren worked on a kibbutz at 15, was educated at Princeton and Columbia, immigrated to Israel and spent multiple tours in the Israeli Army...."
  10. ^ "Commemoration of Prime Minister Rabin's z"l 90th Birthday", Embassy of Israel, February 29, 2012
  11. ^ C-SPAN Transcript of 2002 Interview with Michael Oren
  12. ^ Michael Oren's Profile on
  13. ^ "An interview with Michael Oren", The Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2007.
  14. ^ , November 18, 2002Princeton Weekly Bulletin
  15. ^
  16. ^ Ambassador Michael Oren Biography
  17. ^ , February 20, 2013The Atlantic,Six Degrees of Sally Oren
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b c d e Archive copy at the Wayback Machine Michael Oren's Official Website
  20. ^ "Oren's work with the Zionist underground", Haaretz, September 27, 2009.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Oren in the Spokesman's Office during the 2008–09 Israel–Gaza conflict, The New Republic, January 4, 2009.
  23. ^ , January 28, 2009Michael Oren, Gaza Lecture Part 1 on YouTube
  24. ^ , April 6, 2012Today Show Segment on Oren Family at War
  25. ^ Georgetown University website
  26. ^ , February 27, 2008Georgetown University News
  27. ^
  29. ^ Mark Landler (09-25-09). "Israeli Ambassador Draws on American Roots".  
  30. ^ Michael B. Oren (06-10-09). "Deep Denial: Why The Holocaust Still Matters".  
  31. ^ [4]
  32. ^ [5]
  33. ^ [6]
  34. ^ Ambassador Oren Celebrates Irish Culture on YouTube, March 30, 2011
  35. ^ Ambassador Oren holds Hispanic outreach event, December 15, 2011
  36. ^ Ambassador Oren Hosts Iftar Dinner, Huffington Post, August 25, 2011
  37. ^ Raja Abdulrahim (February 9, 2010). "11 students arrested after disrupting Israeli ambassador's speech at UC Irvine". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  38. ^ Natasha Mozgovaya (9 February 2010). "Muslim students scream 'killer' during Israel envoy speech in Irvine, California. Afterwards the students were peacefully escorted out of the hall, given citations, and let go.". Ha'aretz. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  39. ^ "On campus, is heckling free speech? Or just rude?"
  40. ^ "US court: Students guilty of disrupting Israeli envoy". 
  41. ^ , February 23, 2012Michael Oren Speaks to the U.S. Naval Academy
  42. ^ Michael B. Oren (June 2, 2010). "An Assault, Cloaked in Peace". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  43. ^ "Christians of the Holy Land". CBS News. Retrieved April 22, 2012. 
  44. ^ a b Mozgovaya, Natasha (3 May 2012). "Obama corrects controversial Jewish Heritage Month proclamation". Haaretz. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  45. ^ Ambassador Oren's Letter to 60 Minutes, BuzzFeed, April 26, 2012
  46. ^ JTA (July 10, 2013). "American Jewish groups welcome choice of Netanyahu's right hand man as U.S. envoy". Haaretz. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  47. ^ Michael Oren's Address to Brandeis, Brandeis, May 23, 2010]
  48. ^ Michael Oren's Address to Monmouth University, Monmouth University, January 13, 2012
  49. ^ Ambassador Michael B. Oren Addresses Yeshiva University Yeshiva University, June 1, 2010
  50. ^ Ambassador Oren's Address to the Lab School, Embassy of Israel
  51. ^ Ambassador Oren's Speech to the Equality Forum on LGBT Rights in Israel, Embassy of Israel, May 5, 2012
  52. ^ From The TNR Archives: Michael B. Oren, The New Republic website, April 21, 2009.
  53. ^ Daily Show Interview with Michael Oren, The Daily Show.
  54. ^ The Ultimate Ally, Foreign Policy, May 2011.
  55. ^ Israel's Resilient Democracy, Foreign Policy, April 5, 2012.
  56. ^ "Ex Israeli ambassador slams ceasefir". Israel Herald. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  57. ^
  58. ^  
  59. ^ Oren, Michael (19 June 2015). "How Obama Opened His Heart to the ‘Muslim World’".  
  60. ^ Lewis, Avi (22 June 2015). "ADL demands Michael Oren walk back ‘unjustified attack’ on Obama".  
  61. ^ With ‘Ally,’ Michael Oren lifts the veil on U.S.-Israel relations June 21, 2015 by Ben Cohen /
  62. ^ Michael Oren, were you disappointed by the state of American Jewry? A conversation by Shmuel Rosner, Jewish Journal, June 22nd 2015
  63. ^  
  64. ^ Michael Oren: I obviously touched a nerve Israel Hayom, Newsletter Friday June 26, 2015
  65. ^ Newsweek review
  66. ^ Wash Post review
  67. ^ NY Times review
  68. ^ review
  69. ^ review
  70. ^ "BEST SELLERS: August 18, 2002". The New York Times. 2002-08-18. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  71. ^ Bernstein, Richard (July 17, 2002). "Short Conflict, Far-Reaching Consequences". New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  72. ^ Wash Post article
  73. ^ Aron Heller, NETANYAHU'S FORMER US ENVOY NOW AMONG HIS ISRAELI RIVALS, Associated Press, 9 March 2015

External links

  • Michael Oren on the Knesset website
  • Ambassador Michael B. Oren
  • New York TimesProfile feature at
  • Interview at Uncommon Knowledge (June 23, 2003)
  • Interview at USA Today (May 28, 2005)
  • Article at The Harvard Crimson
  • Feature at The Yale Daily News
  • Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
    • , August 25, 2002.Six Days of War interview with Oren on Booknotes
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