Despite being interrupted at his presentation last year at UC Irvine, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren visited USC Thursday to discuss his stance on U.S.-Israel relations.
The event was hosted by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and moderated by the Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Ernest Wilson III. More than 200 people attended the event.
In his presentation, Oren told many personal stories to illustrate the “multifaceted and deep relationship” between the U.S. and Israel.
Oren emphasized the strong spiritual, democratic, strategic and commercial similarities that tie the two countries together. He said support for Israel was at a 20-year high, by referencing how the U.S. House voted to put sanctions on Iran in November.
In addition, he compared the alliance of the U.S. and Israel to that of Roosevelt and Churchill, saying that great alliances don’t always agree but that “the true litmus test is how they approach their differences.”
“Israel does recognize Washington D.C. as the capital of the United States,” Oren said. Focusing on this relationship, he ended his speech by emphasizing that “Israel is not only America’s ally — Israel is America’s ultimate ally.”
Oren believes the U.S. has a responsibility in moving beyond diplomacy to other parts of the world to provide humanitarian relief. He cited Israel’s support for several recent disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan and Hurricane Sandy, to further this idea.
Trying to make light of the sensitive issues surrounding the politics, Wilson asked about Iran. of Iran.
Oren gave a short response when talking about Israel’s relationship with Iran. He mentioned Iran’s swift advancement of its uranium program and said when it comes to a nuclear Iran, Israel has the most at stake.
“Iran presents a national threat … we have a right to defend ourselves,” said Oren, who also clarified that Israel does not want to exercise that right and will continue to support sanctions against Iran.
The ambassador said the “Iranian nuclear threat is paramount,” and that Israel will continue the escalated sanctions in light of the Iranian conflict.
He also addressed the Palestinian conflict. Oren talked about the desire to establish a compromise between the Palestinian and Israeli-Jewish communities by offering a two-state solution.
“We recognize that there is a Palestinian people but we need them to recognize the Jewish people,” Oren said.
Oren remained confident of future relationships between Israel and the United States will remain strong.
“As a historian, I had enough trouble predicting the past,” Oren joked, before stressing that he knows Israel will continue to be a pro-American, stable country.
Julie Cooperman a sophomore majoring in biologoical sciences said she was surprised by Oren’s positive outlook on Israel’s future.
“It surprised me how confident he was that Israel would be everything it is today in 20 years,” Cooperman said. “As a Jewish-American, I don’t feel that confident. It was more comforting to hear him be so hopeful and surprising that he was so optimistic.”
Revital Batoniashvili, an Israel Fellow at USC Hillel, said this event was successful because students remained respectful.
“The USC campus was very peaceful, and I really appreciate how calm the lecture was and how everyone was respectful,” Batoniashvili said. “It was something we should admire and is one of the great things about USC. It really showed the university’s support of freedom of speech. The environment tonight is what made it happen.”
Christina Schoellkopf contributed to this report.