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Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide Hardcover – June 23, 2015

4.7 out of 5 stars 457 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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.”—Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal
“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.”The New York Times

“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.”New York 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.”The Huffington Post

“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 effect is profound—a steady drumbeat of behind-the-scenes examples of diplomatic dissonance. . . . Adding to the impact is the fact that Oren is neither polemicist nor political partisan.”The Jewish Week
“I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book quite as eye-opening as Michael Oren’s Ally, the bestselling historian’s stunning new memoir of his four years as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. For what Oren has written is an account of serving as a diplomat during a Cold War—the Cold War the Obama administration launched against Israel upon coming to office. . . . Ally makes it nerve-jangingly clear just how difficult a job it has been for anyone to serve as a guardian of the special relationship between Israel and the United States.”Commentary
“Astonishing . . . imbued with a sense of generosity, a sense that an American with an Israeli passport can genuinely love both countries deeply, even when those countries quarrel . . . The book gives us a blow-by-blow of a turbulent relationship between friends, with Oren at the heart of the drama. A big part of the book’s appeal is in its narrative texture—the late-night phone calls, the emergency meetings, the interrupted family trips, the tense summons at the State Department or White House, the strategy sessions at the embassy, and so on. It is Oren’s sharp storytelling mixed with his candid and insightful commentary that makes the book riveting.”Jewish Journal
“[Oren’s] new memoir—an unprecedented case of a former public servant so quickly writing up sometimes intimate revelations on acutely sensitive core issues—does not describe an alliance. . . . Oren’s style is not excitable or melodramatic. In fact, he writes in a generally understated tone, with the measured sense of perspective you’d expect from a bestselling historian. So when he notes, as he does near the very end of the book, that last summer’s Israel-Hamas war left ‘aspects of the US-Israeli alliance in tatters,’ you take him seriously, and you worry.”The Times of Israel
“Essential reading for anyone that cares about the Middle East and the special relationship between America and Israel. . . . Oren is a respected scholar. Accuracy is his coin, and he has long been considered a fair and centrist voice in a conversation with few of them. Perhaps that’s why the White House and its supporters are so worried—and why they’ve inadvertently driven the book to the top of the charts.”NY1
“An amazing read. It is well-written—Oren is a historian—yet the book reads akin to a long-form daily newspaper, mixing politics, diplomacy, and current events. There is tremendous insight into the America-Israel relationship, and this is a must-read for anyone concerned about the State of Israel. . . . It’s a scary—yet seemingly realistic—observation from one of Israel’s highest profile representatives of the past few years.”The Algemeiner
Ally effectively assaults the Obama hyperbole that ‘I am the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat in this office.’ . . . Precisely because the meticulous Oren is fair and understated, his indictment is devastating. That’s why the Obama Administration has reacted defensively and harshly to the book.”FrontPage Mag
“Deft and pointed . . . The author proves a genuine, ardent advocate for the well-being of his beleaguered homeland and its ongoing alliance with the land of his birth. Even before its publication, Oren’s book has been attacked, based on culls of provocative pieces. Readers would do well to attend to the entire text of this fluent, important political memoir.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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 two New York Times bestsellers—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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (June 23, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812996410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812996418
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (457 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alyssa A. Lappen VINE VOICE on July 5, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Somehow I was not surprised, as a poet and history buff, to learn in the early pages of Ally that Michael Oren (born in New Jersey, Michael Bornstein), had yanked himself out of the "dumb" classes to which he'd been relegated by severe learning disabilities---by virtue of poetry that he "pecked out" on an old manual Fleetwood typewriter and that ran in several national magazines.

This transferred him, at about age 14, into "smart" classes, where his struggle to learn grammar and spelling paid off with his admission to Ivy League schools.

Oxford University Press had sent me a readers' copy of Six-Days of War to review before the June 2001 release of the first edition; it was Oren's first successfully published effort, and it is such a well-crafted and researched history volume, it proved a page-turner that I could not put down.

In Ally, Michael Oren has accomplished something quite different. He writes for the first time in the first person, and recounts many episodes that we already know make certain parties bristle.

Unfortunately for them, he tells the full truth, and nothing but the truth---a luxury not always available to him while he served as Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. He of course had to protect certain state secrets, and more importantly, he had to keep feathers as unruffled as possible on every front, not only at home in Israel.

(Not coincidentally, in order to accept that post Oren forever relinquished his citizenship of the U.S., a country he loves, without reserve or question.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is powerful: The author's a historian, and it's clear that history is his real love. It's rare to see that perspective--putting current events immediately into the context of history, let alone getting the you-are-there view of someone who actually WAS there. I thought this would take me forever to read, but I stayed up all night to finish it.

Going in, I expected him to be much harder on Obama than he is -- he really goes out of his way to be fair. He clearly liked Obama a lot - it's fascinating to get a sense of what it's like to be around these great figures (Obama, Hillary Clinton, Netanyahu, and even George Clooney), and to try to live a (somewhat) normal life during a period of great crisis.

What I particularly liked about the book:
1) He clearly tries to give everyone a really fair shake.
2) His writing is just beautiful. The book is a pleasure to read.
3) I now have a much better understanding of how policy decisions are made.
4) I had no idea people in Washington are so foul-mouthed.
5) I really understand how this administration made a series of bad decisions that have led to the craziness in the Middle East.
6) He explains what motivates those decisions -- a specific political ideology that he explains in terms a layperson can really get.

It's a rare book that adds light and not heat to political discourse - this is a great example.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had been reading Ally, when I came to this paragraph, page 276, and I said to myself – this is it, this is why he wrote the book:

“Finally, after many months of attentiveness, I reached my conclusion. In the absence of a high-profile provocation – an attack on a U.S. aircraft carrier, for example – the United States would not use force against Iran. Rather, the administration would remain committed to diplomatically resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, even at the risk of reaching a deal unacceptable to Israel. And If Israel took matters into its own hands, the White House would keep its distance and offer to defend Israel only if it were counterstruck by a hundred thousand Hezbollah missiles.”

Oren sensed that he could make a difference and warn of the disastrous consequences of Obama’s appeasement of Iran and that the time to do that is NOW. And he did it. This book and his three Op-Eds in the WSJ, LA Times and Foreign Policy accomplished more than all the effort of all the Israeli columnists and politicians combined, apart from Netanyahu’s speech in front of the joint meeting of Congress. But paradoxically, that was the move Oren opposed and even after reading the book I still do not understand his motives for opposing Netanyahu’s speech. After all, the only way to stop President Barack Obama’s insane Iran deal was to warn Congress.

It is interesting that Michael Oren managed to do what Bret Stephens, Martin Sherman, Ari Shavit and other Israeli and American analysts never did – quote Bernard Lewis on MAD and Iran! Why is the world ignoring the opinion on Iran and MAD by a leading western scholar of Islam is still a mystery.
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Format: Hardcover
Oren is one of the greatest historians of our generation -- and this is an incredible creation: The first-person observations of a master historian who was one of the prime actors during a period of tremendous change and tension in the American-Israel relationship. Oren was at those meetings, he sat in the inner rooms. This is the record that historians of the future will rely on

Using his celebrated skills as an academic and showing tremendous love for both the US and for Israel, Oren reveals the texture of history in the making -- and the significance of the events he witnessed and helped shape.

For all the fuss over the book, he goes very easy on Obama and his administration: He believes they mean well, and ascribes their amateurish moves in foreign policy to a particular ideology. His insights into Obama, Bibi and other major personalities are fun and fascinating.

Ally makes a compelling case for why the American-Israel alliance is crucial, not only to Israel but equally to the security and well-being of America. He traces how the relationship has gone wrong, and shows how to repair the damage.
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