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Oren on Jewish state push: ‘It’s a departure from the policy that I represented’

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, addresses the annual Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum in Washington, March 6, 2011. (Courtesy JCPA)

Michael Oren served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States until last September. (Courtesy JCPA)

For my story yesterday on the latest crisis in the talks, I spoke to Michael Oren, who until last September was the Israeli ambassador to Washington, and I asked him about why the issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” has become so prominent in the talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had always said that such recognition must be in a final deal, but he also said it was not a precondition to talks. Yet in recent weeks it seemed to have become a very present demand, although the sides had by no means arrived at a final deal.

Oren said that he had noticed a shift in Israel’s approach to the issue.

“It’s a departure from the policy that I represented,” he told me. “The policy I represented was that the ‘Jewish state’ issue would be at the conclusion of the process.”