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Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,013 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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 ambassado
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published June 23rd 2015 by Random House
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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,013 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Steven Z.
Jul 03, 2015 rated it liked it
The deadline for a nuclear agreement with Iran passed on June 30th and the odds of eventually coming to an accommodation remain up in the air. The American realpolitik to reach a consensus dates back to the election of Barack Obama who has stressed the diplomatic card in dealing with Iran since his inauguration, and at the same time offered that “all options were on the table.” Iran’s nuclear development in addition to the correct approach in dealing with the Palestinians form the major disagree ...more
Sharon Young
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: done
I thought Ally was very much on target and it confirmed my opinions on the state of American-Israeli relations. I also agreed with Oren's insights regarding American Jews feelings towards Israel, or lack thereof, as well as Israel's "PR problem".

One particular section under the heading "Hatchet Jobs", was shocking though not surprising... I am quoting Oren's discussion with the NYT Op-Ed editor Andy Rosenthal regarding fact checking.

"Most malicious was the op-ed page of The New York Times, once
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very powerful and timely book about the treatment of an important ally since 2008. Oren does a good job not only discussing the actions of the US but equally balances some of the more questionable actions taken by the Israelis especially early on. Still its flabbergasting after completing this book that this has become the state of affairs between two amazing allies thanks to a single man's worldview. Even more important with recent news about on-going Iranian nuclear talks.
Nick Lloyd
I don't know what led me to believe this would be a fair (or even insightful) look into US-Israel relations. Perhaps it was the candor and even-handedness of Ari Shavit's great book "My Promised Land". However I came to read this book, I was clearly duped. This was a politically written account of Israel during the Obama Administration straight from Netanyahu's mouth. No perspective, no introspection, no sympathy (or empathy) for the Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation. Is Israel a co ...more
Bert  Hopkins
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-people
A must read for anyone worried as I am about the survival of Israel and the Iranian bomb.

Mark Hertling
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Pleasurably readable and tremendously insightful book by the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., who held the position for most of the Obama administration. Oren - American born, raised, and educated; accomplished historian and writer; and "Peace for Galilee" (82 war) IDF paratroop veteran - provides descriptions, analysis and assessment of those events and personalities involved in the U.S.-Israeli relationship during historical times...but not in a typically Washingtonian insider's way. His commen ...more
George Serebrennikov
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, jews-israel, usa
Winston Churchill said once “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.” Reading the book by Michael Oren makes me think that as far as the current administration is concerned, the latter is still true, but former is most likely the wishful thinking.
For me the clear sign of the great book when I feel two contradictory wishes: to get to the last page as soon as possible and to experience the joy of reading the book forever. Outstanding job by fo
Fred Donaldson
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The very definition of American-Israeli alliance

Michael Oren grabs your attention and gently and inexorably guides you through the minefield of Israeli and American political relations while introducing the major players, the historic settings and explaining motives and strategy. A fascinating insight from a man who grew up Jewish in New Jersey, raised a family and served in the IDF in Israel, then came to the US as ambassador. A true ally who shows just what that means.
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Michael Oren covers decades of his involvement with Israel and America. For almost half a century he has loved both countries, demonstrating his respect and admiration for both. In this book, he tries to illuminate the magnificence and beauty of Israel’s accomplishments and the value of its achievements and its democracy to the rest of the world; it is a democracy that stands alone in the heart of a Middle East surrounded by enemies that have tried to annihilate it in the past and still want to ...more
Gabriel Perlin
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, historian Dr. Michael Oren served as Israel's ambassador to the United States of America during most of Barack H. Obama's presidency. In his memoirs entitled "Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide", Dr. Oren recalls the series of diplomatic roller-coaster ups and downs he had to endure as a top diplomat. The book keeps a mainly historical perspective of political events, but is also peppered with personal jabs and embarrassing revelat ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
I was looking forward to reading this book but was disappointed. A few interesting observations, a few new pieces of information. Mostly, though, a lot of words written in a boring style.
Zach Long
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a Christian, the subject matter was immediately enthralling. I didn't expect it to go the extra mile past that. The details of the memoir are substantial, fast-paced, and heart-pounding. The "this is real" factor is what gets your heart pumping because, essentially, it tracks the tumultuous tumble of US-Israeli relations the past decade or so. All of Oren's worst fears slowly come true.

You learn facts, which I had to research afterward to make sure they were true. The Syrian chemical arsenal
Eitan Levy
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This volume has the heft and historical perspective one normally only finds in accounts written decades after the events. This is no surprise to those familiar with the grand scale and enlightening perspective of Oren's historical works (Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present). A rare glimpse into the inner workings of the diplomatic relationship between Israel and the US, the former Israeli ...more
Sudeep Amin
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book is an unabashed piece of Hasbara. This is like listening to my son argue about something because he thinks he is right and it does not matter what the reality is. This book does not do much in terms of explaining why US needs Israel as an ally but is a one-dimensional explanation of Israel's needs. The book reads more like a Michael Oren biography rather than what the book title suggests. You come away from the book thinking that the sole purpose of the book is to attack President Obam ...more
Emma S
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Michael Oren's book needs some serious fact checking, which is shameful based on his record as a historian. He strays so far from the truth at so many points that it is downright mind boggling. For example, he discusses the 2010 forest fire in the Carmel Forest near Haifa. I am a Haifa resident, I was here during the fire, I know people who died in the fire, and Michael Oren strays so far from the facts on this event that it casts doubt on his book as a whole.

He calls it terrorism, ignoring the
Jim Lavis
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The complexities of the Middle East are overwhelming:

While walking around Sag Harbor, a couple of weeks ago, I walked into a local bookstore and a book titled “ALLY” caught my attention. I discovered that this book was a memoir of a Jewish gentleman who was born in New Jersey and gave up his citizenship to be Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Wow, did that capture my attention. I can’t imagine a family-man with a promising career and two children giving up his citizenship and moving the f
I have enjoyed Oren's other books, although as historical works, there were times I felt there was too much detail and it could be a bit dry. Ally is completely different. No longer the historian, Oren is a central figure writing in first person evaluating (from his position as Israeli Ambassador to the US) what he perceives as a deliberate fracture to the U.S.-Israel relationship by the Obama administration. I would imagine that evaluations of this book will divide upon partisan lines: those ap ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic Journey

Michael Oren is nothing if not "diplomatic" in his faith that the Obama administration is looking out for Israeli interests and know what the hell they're doing. I don't. Post Bataclan, post San Bernardino it's evident that the barbarians are at the gate. I suppose that to be an ambassador for the State of Israel, perpetual optimism is requisite. His book reinforces what most Americans know at this late date, It's feckless amateurism ruling Obama's mindset. Regardless of voiced
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a comprehensive and well written book about Oren's time as the Israeli Ambassador to the US. Israel truly faces many obstacles and this book highlights the ongoing challenges in the Middle East. It also highlights how ineffective the US has been in trying to broker a peace agreement. Continually reverting to the Oslo Accord will not move this initiative forward.
Scott Pierce
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
I could not finish the book. The topic is interesting, but Oren does not do a great job of writing concisely about the details of each element of the US-Israel relationship, and he adds too much of his own life in the book to make it more of an autobiography than a political or historical analysis.
Naomi Weiss
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oren is a great writer. At times, perhaps sentimental, but I really enjoyed reading his book and am going to start on his other book! This is a timely book, especially for those who have been wondering what has been going on between Israel and the US.
Emily Bragg
Jul 19, 2015 rated it liked it
a different perspective, and the contrast between when he was the ambassador a d afterwards is interesting to read. pet peeve: don't say dates without years unless they are major events - sometimes that was tricky to follow.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In many ways this book defied my expectations. Knowing the strains in the US-Israeli relationship during the Obama administration I expected a far more searing critique of the figures than is presented, particularly with regard to the president. Instead what is offered is highly nuanced including some of the most sympathetic portrayals of the Obama I have ever encountered. For example when Obama is portrayed in a heroic light responding to threats posed by Israeli forest fires by providing emerg ...more
Jun 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Oren tells his story of immigrating to Israel, spending time on a kibbutz, in the army, in academia, and finally as the Israeli ambassador to the US during Obama's presidency. Because of his involvement in US-Israeli politics, he has a unique insider perspective. The book is full to the brim with detailed story telling, and he does a good job of filling in the less-well-informed reader (like me) on the backstories. I feel like I learned a lot from the book, especially about the relationship betw ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The content was okay, the writing . . . conveyed ideas well enough but lacked any flair, and the execution was lacking.

The timeline is spazzy. There is a lot of jumping back and forth, so that without a strong pre-existing grasp on the main events it can be difficult to keep the order correct. In paper this might not be such a problem, especially with a proper timeline to flip to, but I found it problematic in audio.

Reader note 2: the half-way mark (7-8 hours of 16 total in the audio) is that
Rhonda Sue
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a very heavy read, lots of facts and personal accounts of the author during his time as Israel's Ambassador to the US from 2009-2013. As with books of this type, it's tough to discern truth from fiction, plus it had to pass through Israeli censorship. What bothered me was the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic sentiment that seems to undergird humanity. I think Bibi is a great statesman and reminds me of the great Sir Winston Churchill. But, this book is about the author's time as an ambassador ...more
Alex Annear
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Michael Oren’s memoir of his time as Israel’s ambassador to the US during the Obama presidency is a few things: a remarkable story of an American Jew, inspired by his hero, Yitzhak Rabin, into making aliyah and moving to Israel, only to rise to supremely influential roles in Israeli politics; oddly dated, in light of the cataclysmic changes in the US-Israel relationship since the election of Trump (who appears to love Netanyahu as much as Obama seemed to detest him); and amazingly pertinent give ...more
Roni Bat-lavi
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An in-depth account of a centrist (many would say left-leaning) Israeli ambassador who tried to build a bridge between Israel and the United States during a tumultuous time. Unfortunately, Barack Obama's attitude toward Israel and the Middle East in general was extremely patronizing and paternalistic. He thought he knew how to run the region better than the people who actually live there. This created some friction, which is described in the book. I felt Michael Oren was actually letting Obama a ...more
Mike Horne
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I stumbled across this as I am reading all about Bush and Obama's wars. I am listening to the author. Gee, he sounds like some guy from New Jersey! I know little about Israel, so this was a good place to begin. However, he says that an ambassador must be a virtuous person who lies all the time. He says it is much harder to explain the US to Israel than Israel to the US.

I am now reading My Promised Land by Ari Shavit. Much better at explaining Israel. I will write a longer review with all my tho
Jim Milway
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting inside story of the Israel-US relationship during the Obama administration. It shows the incompetence of Obama's mid-east policies, especially the ongoing futility of his administration's shuttle diplomacy, the rush to do an Iran deal, and an ongoing back-and-forth in the US's stance towards Israel. It also shows the frustration faced by Israel in dealing with the UN and international community. Oren gives the Israeli side to the settlements issue - which the reader may or not agree ...more
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Michael B. Oren (Hebrew: מיכאל אורן; born Michael Scott Bornstein on May 20, 1955) is an American-born Israeli historian, author, politician, former ambassador to the United States (2009–2013), and current member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party and the Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in the Prime Minister's Office.

Oren has written books, articles, and essays on Middle Eastern history, and is the
“Fortunately, as Jews, we were never short of excuses for entertaining. Most Jewish holidays, an old joke goes, can be reduced to nine words: “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.” 2 likes
“I had to pull columnist George Will out of a baseball game—like yanking Hemingway out of a bar—to correct one misattributed quote, and berate blogger Josh Rogin for recording a public talk between Jeffrey Goldberg and me in a synagogue, on Yom Kippur. Most miffing was the book This Town, a pillorying of well-connected Washingtonians by The New York Times’s Mark Leibovich. The only thing worse than being mentioned in Mark’s bestselling book was not being mentioned in it. I merited much of a paragraph relating how, at the Christmas party of media grandees Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, I “hovered dangerously over the buffet table, eyeing a massive Christmas ham.” But Nathan Guttman, a reporter for The Jewish Daily Forward, changed the word “eyeing” to “reaching for,” insinuating that I ate the ham. Ironically, the embassy employed Nathan’s caterer wife to cook gala kosher dinners. George Will graciously corrected the quote and Josh Rogin apologized. The Jewish Daily Forward printed a full retraction. Yet, in the new media age, old stories never vanish. A day after the Forward’s faux pas, I received several angry phone calls from around the United States. “You should be ashamed of yourself!” they remonstrated. “The Israeli ambassador eating trief? In public? On Christmas?” I tried to defend myself—“I didn’t eat it, I eyed it”—but fruitlessly. Those calls reminded me that, more complex than many of the issues I faced in the press, and often more explosive, was the minefield of American Jewry.” 1 likes
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