Northeastern hosts Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., called Israel America’s “ultimate ally.” Photo by Kristie Gillooly.

Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said on Tuesday at Northeastern that Israel is America’s “ultimate ally.”

“Israel is unequivocally pro-America,” Oren told more than 100 members of the Northeastern community who gathered in Blackman Auditorium for a discussion on the U.S.-Israel relationship. “You’re not going to see American flags being burned there,” he added, noting that Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a 9/11 memorial.

The event was streamed on Northeastern’s Facebook page. The live audience included special guest Shai Bazak, Consul General of Israel to New England.

Stephen Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, introduced Oren, calling him both a “scholar and a statesman.”

“We’re honored to have him join us on our campus,” he added.

Oren — who grew up in New Jersey, but ultimately had to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to assume his role as ambassador — has received fellowships from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, and from the British and Canadian governments. Formerly, he was the Lady Davis Fellow of Hebrew University, a Moshe Dayan Fellow at Tel-Aviv University and a Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

The strong bond between Israel and the United States, Oren said, can be traced back to the 17th century Puritan movement, in which English Protestants coped with conflict with the Church of England by seeking hope in the Old Testament.

“In the Old Testament, Puritans found a god who spoke directly to his people in Hebrew and made promises to rescue them from exile and restore them to the promised land,” Oren explained.

“Puritans,” he added, “gave Hebrew names to many towns and cities and made Hebrew a required language at universities.”

Both the U.S. and Israel favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Oren said. “Both countries believe that there is no alternative to reaching that goal other than direct negotiations,” he explained, adding that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top Palestinian officials on Monday.

Oren also touted the importance of Israel’s military alliance with the U.S., which, he said, gives its ally some $3 billion in military aid each year.

Israel, he noted, runs one of “the most adept and capable intelligence services and shares intelligence at the highest level on a daily basis about issues crucial for American security.”

After the lecture, Oren fielded questions posed by audience members. One student asked Oren whether Israel would seek military assistance from the U.S. if it were to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“We are involved in ongoing high-level discourse [with the United States] about the Iranian threat,” Oren responded, noting that the “real question we have to ask ourselves is what the cost of inaction against a nuclear armed Iran would be.”

Paraphrasing President Barack Obama, he added, “It is Israel’s duty to defend itself against any Middle East threat.”