Israeli Ambassador: Bibi Didn't Meddle in U.S. Election

Michael Oren denies that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported Romney over Obama.

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In this photo provided by Columbia Law School, Michael B. Oren, Israeli ambassador to the United States, delivers an address at Columbia Law School in New York. Oren, invited to speak as a guest of the Center for Israeli Legal Studies, described Israel's long-standing, close relationship with the United States.
In this photo provided by Columbia Law School, Michael B. Oren, Israeli ambassador to the United States, delivers an address at Columbia Law School in New York. Oren, invited to speak as a guest of the Center for Israeli Legal Studies, described Israel's long-standing, close relationship with the United States.

When Mitt Romney visited Israel in July, he professed a happy friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "spans the years," according to ABC News. Later, Netanyahu popped up in a pro-Romney Super PAC ad.

By all indications, it appeared Netanyahu had thrown his support behind Romney over President Obama in the U.S. presidential election, and an editorial in Israel's left-leaning daily newspaper Haaretz accused Bibi of "meddling."

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But at a lunch meeting with reporters Monday, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren insisted that wasn't true.

"Categorically no," he said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu went to extraordinary lengths not to be dragged not into the U.S. political elections. And here, you know, both parties put out film clips on YouTube that attempted to harness Israel and Israeli leaders into the political situation."

David Andrew Weinberg, a fellow at the UCLA Center for Middle East Development, says Oren's words should be taken "with a grain of salt."

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"Ambassador Oren is a capable diplomat, so it should come as little surprise that he is denying allegations his boss tried to unseat President Obama," Weinberg tells Whispers.

Prominent Israeli editor and columnist Shmuel Rosner disagrees. While Rosner acknowledges that Netanyahu and Obama are "no love story," he notes that Netanyahu "was careful never to say or do something that is markedly pro-Romney" during the campaign.

But Weinberg argues that Bibi did seem to meddle during the United Nations General Assembly in September, just two months before Election Day. At the time, Israel announced that Netanyahu had sought to meet with President Obama but had been turned down. "The prime minister's office manufactured charges that President Obama was snubbing Israel,"Weinberg tells Whispers. "Obama had no plans to meet with any foreign leader in New York that day."

Oren was insistent Tuesday that any such perceptions of Netanyahu are misguided.

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"Everything in this country was seen through the prism of the election," he said. "So every time... [the prime minister] expressed Israel's interest and Israel's perspective, it was immediately misinterpreted here as a sort of an illicit attempt to interfere in American political politics. And it wasn't true."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.