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Israel picks Michael Oren, historian, as ambassador to U.S.

A New York-born and Princeton-educated historian and commentator on Middle East affairs has been chosen Israel’s next ambassador to Washington, Israeli news media reported Saturday.

According to the online edition of the newspaper Haaretz, Michael B. Oren’s selection by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval at its meeting today. Oren would replace Sallai Meridor.

Government spokesman Mark Regev said he could not confirm the report.

Oren is a senior fellow at Shalem Center, a conservative Jerusalem think tank. He is the author of several bestsellers, including “Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East,” which won the L.A. Times Book Prize for history in 2003. His writings have appeared in The Times’ Opinion and Book Review sections.

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Oren, who was born in 1955, emigrated to Israel in 1979, and served as a wartime paratroop officer in Lebanon. During Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter, he volunteered as a military liaison officer, briefing reporters outside the coastal territory.

He holds American and Israeli citizenship and is well connected in U.S. political circles, making him a potentially effective advocate for the policies of the new conservative government.

Netanyahu’s inner circle is engaged in a wide-ranging foreign policy review before his visit to the White House this month. His refusal so far to endorse the goal of an independent Palestinian state puts him at odds with President Obama.

Some views Oren has expressed as a commentator conflict with those of Netanyahu. In a speech at Georgetown University in March, Haaretz reported, Oren called for a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, similar to Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, contending that such a move would relieve tensions until a stronger, more reliable Palestinian peace partner came to power.

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Netanyahu has warned that a pullout from the West Bank would enable extremists to take over and threaten Israel.

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boudreaux@latimes.com


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