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Ally
Cover of Ally
Ally
My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes a new afterword about the Iran nuclear agreement, the 2016 presidential race, and the future of the U.S.-Israel alliance
Michael B. Oren's memoir of his time as Israel's ambassador to the United States—a period of transformative change for America and a time of violent upheaval throughout the Middle East—provides a frank, fascinating look inside the special relationship between America and its closest ally in the region.

Michael Oren served as the Israeli ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013. An American by birth and a historian by training, Oren arrived at his diplomatic post just as Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton assumed office. During Oren's tenure in office, Israel and America grappled with the Palestinian peace process, the Arab Spring, and existential threats to Israel posed by international terrorism and the Iranian nuclear program. Forged in the Truman administration, America's alliance with Israel was subjected to enormous strains, and its future was questioned by commentators in both countries. On more than one occasion, the friendship's very fabric seemed close to unraveling.

Ally is the story of that enduring alliance—and of its divides—written from the perspective of a man who treasures his American identity while proudly serving the Jewish State he has come to call home. No one could have been better suited to strengthen bridges between the United States and Israel than Michael Oren—a man equally at home jumping out of a plane as an Israeli paratrooper and discussing Middle East history on TV's Sunday morning political shows. In the pages of this fast-paced book, Oren interweaves the story of his personal journey with behind-the-scenes accounts of fateful meetings between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, high-stakes summits with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and diplomatic crises that intensified the controversy surrounding the world's most contested strip of land.

A quintessentially American story of a young man who refused to relinquish a dream—irrespective of the obstacles—and an inherently Israeli story about assuming onerous responsibilities, Ally is at once a record, a chronicle, and a confession. And it is a story about love—about someone fortunate enough to love two countries and to represent one to the other. But, above all, this memoir is a testament to an alliance that was and will remain vital for Americans, Israelis, and the world.
Praise for Ally

"The smartest and juiciest diplomatic memoir that I've read in years, and I've read my share. . . . The best contribution yet to a growing literature—from Vali Nasr's Dispensable Nation to Leon Panetta's Worthy Fights—describing how foreign policy is made in the Age of Obama."—Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal
"Provocative . . . Oren's book offers a view into the deep rifts that have opened not only between Washington and Jerusalem, but also between Israeli and American Jews."Newsweek

"[Oren is] one of the most uniquely qualified judges of this ever more crucial special relationship."The Washington Times

"The diplomatic equivalent of a 'kiss-and-tell' memoir . . . informative and in parts entertaining."Financial Times

"The talk of Washington and Jerusalem . . . an ultimate insider's story."New York Post
From the Trade Paperback edition.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes a new afterword about the Iran nuclear agreement, the 2016 presidential race, and the future of the U.S.-Israel alliance
Michael B. Oren's memoir of his time as Israel's ambassador to the United States—a period of transformative change for America and a time of violent upheaval throughout the Middle East—provides a frank, fascinating look inside the special relationship between America and its closest ally in the region.

Michael Oren served as the Israeli ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013. An American by birth and a historian by training, Oren arrived at his diplomatic post just as Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton assumed office. During Oren's tenure in office, Israel and America grappled with the Palestinian peace process, the Arab Spring, and existential threats to Israel posed by international terrorism and the Iranian nuclear program. Forged in the Truman administration, America's alliance with Israel was subjected to enormous strains, and its future was questioned by commentators in both countries. On more than one occasion, the friendship's very fabric seemed close to unraveling.

Ally is the story of that enduring alliance—and of its divides—written from the perspective of a man who treasures his American identity while proudly serving the Jewish State he has come to call home. No one could have been better suited to strengthen bridges between the United States and Israel than Michael Oren—a man equally at home jumping out of a plane as an Israeli paratrooper and discussing Middle East history on TV's Sunday morning political shows. In the pages of this fast-paced book, Oren interweaves the story of his personal journey with behind-the-scenes accounts of fateful meetings between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, high-stakes summits with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and diplomatic crises that intensified the controversy surrounding the world's most contested strip of land.

A quintessentially American story of a young man who refused to relinquish a dream—irrespective of the obstacles—and an inherently Israeli story about assuming onerous responsibilities, Ally is at once a record, a chronicle, and a confession. And it is a story about love—about someone fortunate enough to love two countries and to represent one to the other. But, above all, this memoir is a testament to an alliance that was and will remain vital for Americans, Israelis, and the world.
Praise for Ally

"The smartest and juiciest diplomatic memoir that I've read in years, and I've read my share. . . . The best contribution yet to a growing literature—from Vali Nasr's Dispensable Nation to Leon Panetta's Worthy Fights—describing how foreign policy is made in the Age of Obama."—Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal
"Provocative . . . Oren's book offers a view into the deep rifts that have opened not only between Washington and Jerusalem, but also between Israeli and American Jews."Newsweek

"[Oren is] one of the most uniquely qualified judges of this ever more crucial special relationship."The Washington Times

"The diplomatic equivalent of a 'kiss-and-tell' memoir . . . informative and in parts entertaining."Financial Times

"The talk of Washington and Jerusalem . . . an ultimate insider's story."New York Post
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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  • From the book The Perforated

    Passport

    The Embassy of the United States to the State of Israel should be a majestic structure. After all, it is the hub of America's most special relationship with any foreign nation. And yet the building—squat and colorless—looks like a bunker. Perhaps the purpose is to discourage the hundreds of Israelis who daily line the sidewalk outside to apply for tourist visas, or to confound any terrorist who managed to skirt the concrete obstacles girding the grounds. Whatever its purpose, the bleak exterior reflected my mood as I entered the compound in early June 2009 and presented my passport.

    That Yankee-blue document announced that I had been born Michael Bornstein, in Upstate New York and had been a U.S. citizen for more than half a century. With a faded cover and pages tattooed by customs, it had accompanied me on innumerable transoceanic flights. Presenting that passport at Newark's Liberty International Airport, a twenty-minute drive from where my parents raised my two sisters and me, I beamed each time the inspectors wished me, "Welcome home."

    I believed in that passport—in the history it symbolized, the values it proclaimed. Awareness of the nation's darker legacies, such as slavery, did not make me less sentimental about America. My eyes still misted during the national anthem, brightened at the sight of Manhattan's skyline, and marveled at the Rockies from thirty-five thousand feet. Once, when reading aloud the inscription on the Lincoln Memorial and already choking at "four score and seven years ago," my children rolled their eyes and sighed, "There he goes again. . . ."

    My affection for America sprang naturally. Growing up in the northern New Jersey town of West Orange, I played Little League baseball, attended pep rallies, and danced—in a lamentable banana tux—at my senior prom. My father, who fought in World War II and afterward served in the army reserves, took me to his unit's reunions and to summer maneuvers to watch the color guards parade. I, too, marched, albeit across halftime gridirons puffing into a baritone horn. At Boys State, the American Legion's semimilitary seminar, Vietnam vets put me and other selected seventeen-year-olds through a basic training in American democracy. The following year, I starred as Don Quixote in our high school's production of Man of La Mancha, the musical based on Cervantes's classic. Arrayed in rusted armor, I tilted at windmills and strained for the high notes while enjoining the audience to "Dream the Impossible Dream."

    Yet there were handicaps. Like many in our working-class neighborhood, my parents struggled financially. They could not afford to send me to the pricey Jewish summer camps, and instead packed me off to a rustic YMCA program with mandatory church services and grace before meals. Overweight and so pigeon-toed that I had to wear an excruciating leg brace at night, I was hopeless at sports. And severe learning disabilities consigned me to the "dumb" classes at school, where I failed to grasp elementary math and learn to write legibly.

    Yet, fervently determined, I managed to overcome these obstacles. At fourteen I went on a draconian diet and slimmed down, forced myself to run long distances while keeping my feet straight, and forged myself into an athlete. Meanwhile, my mother lovingly showed me how to type on an old Fleetwood on which I began to peck out poetry. After publishing my verse in several national magazines, I was transferred into a "smart" class, taught myself grammar and spelling, and ultimately attended Ivy League schools. All the hallmarks of an American success became mine, I...
About the Author-
  • Michael B. Oren is an American-born Israeli historian and author, and was Israel's ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013. He has written three New York Times bestsellers—Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide; Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present; and Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for history and the National Jewish Book Award. Throughout his illustrious career as a Middle East scholar, Dr. Oren has been a distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, a contributing editor to The New Republic, and a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown. The Forward named Oren one of the five most influential American Jews, and The Jerusalem Post listed him as one of the world's ten most influential Jews. He currently lives with his family in Tel Aviv. He is a member of the Knesset and the Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in the Prime Minister's Office.
Reviews-
  • Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal "Michael Oren, Israel's former ambassador to the United States, has written the smartest and juiciest diplomatic memoir that I've read in years, and I've read my share. The book, called Ally, has the added virtues of being politically relevant and historically important. This has the Obama administration--which doesn't come out looking too good in Mr. Oren's account--in an epic snit. . . . [Oren's] memoir is the best contribution yet to a growing literature--from Vali Nasr's Dispensable Nation to Leon Panetta's Worthy Fights--describing how foreign policy is made in the Age of Obama: lofty in its pronouncements and rich in its self-regard, but incompetent in its execution and dismal in its results. Good for Mr. Oren for providing such comprehensive evidence of the facts as he lived them."
  • The New York Times "Illuminating . . . Oren was by no means Netanyahu's most truculent adviser, but his personal odyssey exemplifies the shift from a liberal and secular Zionism to a more belligerent nationalism."
  • New York Post "Unlike other diplomatic memoirs, which rarely disclose anything controversial, Oren's Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide is provocative, as the former ambassador blames President Barack Obama for the sorry state of U.S.-Israel relations and much else that's wrong in the Middle East today. . . . Oren's book offers a view into the deep rifts that have opened not only between Washington and Jerusalem, but also between Israeli and American Jews."--Newsweek "A book full of penetrating insights . . . [Oren's] beguiling, surprisingly frank memoir not only gives us the reality of what achieving his dream entailed, but tells us what he went through in order to get there. . . . It is the product not only of Mr. Oren's challenging ambassadorial tenure in Washington but of a life well lived as an Israeli and as an American, a combination which makes him one of the most uniquely qualified judges of this ever more crucial special relationship."--The Washington Times "Oren has written the diplomatic equivalent of a 'kiss-and-tell' memoir, chronicling his years as Israel's ambassador. . . . It is less sensational than the parts cherry-picked before publication. Yet it is informative and in parts entertaining. . . . The book is a useful account, if partial and partisan, of a unique time in US-Israeli relations, in which officials of both are criticizing each other with increasing bluntness."--Financial Times "The talk of Washington and Jerusalem . . . I'm not sure that in the annals of diplomatic history there's ever been anything quite like this astonishing account of Oren's four years as Israel's ambassador in Washington. It's an ultimate insider's story told while all the players save Oren are still in place."
  • The Huffington Post "Ally is an important read for those seeking to understand the complexities of the American-Israeli alliance. Unlike his previous two books, which were written from the perspective of an historian and became New York Times bestsellers, former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren's latest book is based on his own personal experiences, perceptions and interactions with President Obama and the administration."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "An irreplaceable trove of insight into what will one day be seen as a momentous historical turn . . . an insider's account of the dramatic change of America's behind-the-scenes policy toward the Iranian regime . . . Without ever slipping into hyperbole, the book's measured narrative seems to confirm a lot of what the administration's critics have been accusing it of: enabling the Iranian regime rather than really trying to stop it, while putting a vice grip on the increasingly alarmed Israelis."--The Forward "[A] revealing new memoir . . . a carefully recalled, detailed and riveting first-hand account of how the Washington-Jerusalem ties have unraveled--undone by mistrust, mistakes, and missed opportunities . . . The cumulative
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My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide
Michael B. Oren
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