Oren at AIPAC forum makes appeal for pro-Israel outreach

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, opened the annual AIPAC policy conference with an appeal for pro-Israel outreach to African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims.

"Reach out to the churches in your community, to the African-Americans, the Latinos, to the mosques," Oren said Sunday after he was asked what his main message was to the 13,000 activists of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Oren in an interview with Frank Sesno, a former CNN anchor, said Israel was looking forward to President Obama’s visit to Israel later this month and addressed three challenges facing the allies: getting Iran to suspend its suspected nuclear weapons program; securing Israel from the turmoil in Syria; and renewing peace talks with the Palestinians.

On Iran, Oren said there was a small window for diplomacy to work.

"Imagine if Iran had that nuclear weapon, what is the price of inaction," Oren said.

Syria must be kept from transferring weapons to Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Authority must take risks, as Israel has, Oren said.

Oren sounded a tough note on the prospect of any reconciliation between P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

"We see that very much as a game blocker," he said.

Also scheduled to address the conference, which runs through Tuesday, are Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the conference by video.

Activists will lobby Congress to sharpen Iran sanctions, to call on the president to support Israel should it be "compelled" to strike Iran and to establish a new category, "major strategic ally," to describe the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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