In 2007, Oren made news when in his research he turned up an Israeli diplomatic initiative that almost thwarted the liberation of Jerusalem’s Old City during the Six-Day War. As troops were set to go into the Old City, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol made a secret peace overture to King Hussein of Jordan that Israel would stay out of the Old City if Jordan agreed to an immediate ceasefire. Hussein had no response and Israel’s troops moved in.
Oren became a diplomat when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named him as ambassador to Washington in 2009. Oren, who had to forfeit his U.S. citizenship to take the posting, served at a time when many described the relationship between President Obama and Netanyahu as rocky. In 2010, Oren was summoned to meet with James Steinberg, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, after it was announced in Israel during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that a new batch of settlements would be built in eastern Jerusalem. At the time, Oren said he was “working hard to avert an escalation. We’re working very hard to get back to what we need to do to make peace and stop Iran from making the bomb. We have apologized publicly and privately profusely.”
Oren gave countless speeches across the United States during his tenure. One of his speeches in February 2010 at the University of California, Irvine made headlines when Oren was disrupted repeatedly by 11 Muslim students, prompting the ambassador to leave the stage twice. The students were arrested, and 10 of them later were found guilty and sentenced to 56 hours of community service and 3 years of probation. In 2012, more than a dozen students walked out of an Oren speech at George Washington University in a silent protest that was applauded by some members of the crowd.
Oren often spoke of the dangers posed by Iran. In 2011, Oren opined that while America had been distracted by economic problems, Iran has been “stealing bases” in its push toward nuclear weapons.
In August 2011, Oren campaigned for Jewish groups to do all they could to oppose a Palestinian bid for statehood recognition in the United Nations, calling for “all hands on deck.”
Oren also used his post to reach out to minorities. In December 2011, Oren invited 65 Hispanic politicians to his house for dinner. The reception “represents the latest and most ambitious stage in a program I started to reach out to communities that traditionally have not been close to Israel,” Oren said.