Israel Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren spoke to GW students and faculty Monday night at the Elliott School of International Affairs. The Ambassador's talk was titled, "Ultimate Allies: Israel and the United States." The Ambassador was brought to the University by the Middle East Policy Forum.
The Ambassador gave a half-hour talk about how the relationship between Israel and the United States has always been close going back to when the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Oren explained that the Pilgrims were inspired by the bible story of the Israelites escaping from Egypt.
"The Puritans read the Old Testament and they loved the story," Oren said. "They became the new Israel and England became the new Egypt. That's why there are about a thousand towns in the Northeastern United States with Hebrew biblical names," Oren explained.
Oren told two stories of recent trips to Colorado and Ohio to highlight the close relationship between Israel and the United States. In Colorado Oren was present at the Colorado State Assembly's vote on a resolution that passed unanimously to support Israel. In Cincinnati, Ohio Oren went to "The Church of the New Jerusalem," an all African American Baptist Church. Oren said he was warmly received "with love" as Israel's Ambassador to the United States
"What other country's ambassador would be greeted this way in such diverse scenarios," Oren asked.
There were tense moments during Oren's talk and afterwards, however. A group of more than a dozen students walked out of the auditorium less than ten minutes into Oren's talk. One student walking-out held a sign that said, "Oren Supports Colonialism." in regards to Israel's relationship with the Palestinians. As the students walked out the Ambassador remained calm.
"I'll wait," Oren said. "It's a shame. I've come here to talk to you," he added to the students walking out.
The students who walked out then lined-up in front of the Elliott School and protested with signs and chanting. The students were still protesting when audience members were exiting the building after the event.
Following his speech, Oren took questions from the audience. Several of the questions included sharp critiques of Israel's handling of settlements in the West Bank and other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Oren did say that Israel and the United States did not agree on everything.
"We have disagreed on tactical aspects of the peace process," Oren said. "[However], we agree on the endgame. The strategy is the creation of two states for two peoples. The nation state of the Jewish people called Israel and the nation state of the Palestinian people called Palestine living side-by-side in mutual security and mutual recognition,"Oren explained.
Mostly, Oren remained focused on how Israel and the United States have shared innovative ideas with each other. Oren told a story about how a Jerusalem company's high-tech bandage with an internal pressure device was used to stop the bleeding from a wound in Congresswomen Gabrielle Gifford's head when she was shot in January 2011. Oren discussed how Israeli companies are employing thousands of Americans in the United States. Oren went on to talk about how Israel has shared its technology developments with the United States. One of Oren's examples was with the USB storage device, which was invented in Israel.
"We are in the high-tech part of your existence as students," Oren commented.
According to Oren, Israel is looking to be the first country with a self-sufficient electric car system.
"We hope to help President Obama reach his goal of a billion electric cars on American roads by 2015," Oren said.