Paul Calvert spoke with Michael Oren, a member of the Knesset, and Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in Israel.

Michael Oren with Paul Calvert
Michael Oren with Paul Calvert

Paul Calvert spoke with Michael Oren, a member of the Knesset, and Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in Israel, about President Donald Trump, terrorism, Israeli prisons and the unusual story of a Palestinian prisoner not wanting to be released until he'd finished his MA.

Paul: What is it like for you representing your country in the Israeli Parliament?

Michael: It's a great honour and it's an honour that I don't take for granted.

From where I am talking to you, it is about a two hour drive to the Syrian border and from ISIS. We are about a five to six hour drive from the Iraqi border and we are an hour and a half from Hamas in Gaza. To have a democratic institution where Jews, Muslims and Christians and Leftists, Rightists and Communists, can all get together and scream at each other peacefully and actually pass a tremendous amount of legislation, (we have no polarisation here), I think is one of the crowning achievements of the State of Israel. It's a great privilege for me to be a part of it.

Paul: Have you always been interested in politics?

Michael: I've always been interested in politics from the outside, not necessarily from the inside. I hadn't thought of myself as someone who might someday be a politician; this is a relatively recent development in my life and it's fascinating. Like any public servant in service to your country, it doesn't matter which country you're involved with, there's a tremendous amount of sacrifice. You don't get rich doing it; at least if you're honest. And you don't get a lot of sleep, or vacation and you live your life under a magnifying glass. There are many sacrifices, but I think the rewards surmount the sacrifices. They certainly justify them.

Paul: When did you come to Israel and why did you come?

Michael: I came to Israel almost 40 years ago. I came because I was not going to miss what I regard as the most exciting story in Jewish history, in many thousands of years; to be part of building this country.

I look around today, 40 years later and I have a tremendous sense of pride, because the Israel I came to 40 years ago was a much different place; it was almost like the Wild West. I always say, there wasn't central heating, you had to fill up kerosene lamps all the time and no-one has a kerosene lamp here anymore. There weren't telephones and there weren't many private cars. Israel has changed profoundly, it's almost unrecognisable and I feel a sense of pride in being part of that transformation.

Paul: You were the Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Donald Trump is the new President, is he a good friend to Israel?

Michael: He is a good friend to Israel. I think that we can look at his many policies around the world, not just towards us, whether it be standing up to North Korea and standing up to Bashar Assad in Syria, these all underscore the strength of the United States and of the presidency. A strong America is in Israel's interest and not only in our interest, it's in the interest of most of our Arab neighbours; it's in the interest of most of the free countries in the world that America be strong. The degree to which President Trump is restoring America's position in the world is good for us.

Paul: Will he understand the difficulties and complexities to obtain peace?

Michael: I hope so. They are indeed deeply complex; six Israeli Prime Ministers have tried to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and have not succeeded. Sometimes the complexities are such, that they elude us as well.

I have my own opinions about those complexities. I've been a student of this area of the world and all of this conflict for close to 50 years and have reached some fundamental conclusions about them. I would like to share those conclusions with American policy makers.