LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Israel has been guardedly optimistic about the recent string of democratic uprisings in the Middle East, the country’s ambassador to the United States told a friendly crowd of about 200 at Colorado Christian University on Tuesday.
Israel has watched as minority Islamic extremist groups have hijacked democratic movements in Iran, Gaza and Lebanon, Ambassador Michael Oren said at the campus near Denver. Hopefully, that won’t be the case after the recent protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the region, he said.
“In most of these countries there’s only one group that has organization, that has clear leadership and that has funding,” he said. “And those are extremists, Islamic extremists.”
Oren’s February 2010 speech at the University of California, Irvine was repeatedly disrupted by 11 pro-Palestinian students who called out “murderer” and “war criminal” by as he was giving a talk on the Middle East peace process.
Tuesday’s appearance at Colorado Christian University was closed to the general public, with only students, faculty, staff and other members of the university community invited to attend.
Oren was in Colorado on a ski vacation with his son and accepted an invitation to speak from university president Bill Armstrong, said John Andrews, the director of the Centennial Institute at the university and former president of the state Senate. The ambassador spoke briefly on the history of the relationship between Israel and the United States.
“We felt that the benefit of his speech would be greatest for the immediate campus community,” Andrews said. “We didn’t particularly feel a concern there would be demonstrations outside or disruptions inside.”
During a question and answer session following his remarks, one audience member asked Oren how committed President Barack Obama’s administration was to Israel.
“The true litmus of any alliance is not whether you agree on everything. The great litmus of every alliance is how you overcome your disagreements,” Oren said, reiterating statements he’s made in response to rumors of disputes between Israeli officials and the Obama administration.
– By Sheila V. Kumar, AP Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)