Mixed Reaction to Obama in Israel

March 24, 2013 1:28 am 1 comment

U.S. President Barack Obama waves before addressing Israeli students at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

By Mati Tuchfeld, Shlomo Cesana and Gideon Allon/JNS.org

Reaction was mixed in Israel to the public statements made by U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit, with some embracing Obama’s appeal for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and others voicing skepticism about the practicality of the goals he articulated.

“Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine,” Obama told a packed audience of young Israelis at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Thursday.

“There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, and leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is why security must be at the center of any agreement,” Obama said. “And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Obama “for the unreserved support of the State of Israel.”

“The prime minister agrees with the president that we have to advance a peace that ensures the security of Israeli citizens. The prime minister also agrees that we have a wonderful country,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) disagreed with Obama over the need for two states for two peoples.

“His remarks certainly came from a place of concern for Israel and true friendship,” Bennett wrote on his Facebook wall. “But the results of our previous withdrawal were felt this morning in Sderot [a rocket from Gaza damaged a Sderot home] and in the thousands of victims in recent years. A Palestinian state is not the right path… For the attention of [Secretary of State] John Kerry, Bennett’s diplomatic worldview has not changed because of Obama’s speech.”

“Besides,” Bennett added, “a nation cannot occupy its own land.”

Habayit Hayehudi’s faction chairwoman MK Ayelet Shaked said, “If we are talking about Iron Dome, then Judea and Samaria are our Iron Dome. There is no doubt that Obama is a real friend of Israel. But it will be we who have to face the disastrous and catastrophic consequences of the establishment Palestinian state. It is no wonder that the Israeli public chose, only this past week, a government that does not have the idea of the establishment of a Palestinian state in its coalition guidelines.”

“The president’s speech was warm and embracing, but at the same time he tried to create the illusion of a public that supports steps that are dangerous for Israel,” the Yesha Council said in a statement.

A former head of the Yesha Council, Danny Dayan, Tweeted on Friday that he was surprised at how naive Obama was. “Not even an American president can revive a corpse. The two-state solution is a corpse,” Dayan said.

But not everyone shared Dayan’s pessimism. “Obama’s speech was very important and inspiring,” said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah). “It is our job to implement his Zionist vision.”

“Obama wanted to speak directly to the young people of Israel, and they should take his words about pressuring Israel’s leaders as an order and not a recommendation,” said Member of Knesset Itzik Shmuli (Labor).

“The president’s speech matched my worldview,” said Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On. “He spoke from the heart and entered peoples’ hearts.”

In Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, dozens of Israelis watched Obama’s speech on a giant screen, in an event organized by the Peace Now movement.

Even before Obama left the country, pundits were trying to summarize the visit and assess what would be the takeaway for Israel. Analysts agreed that it was a great achievement for Israel that Obama told the Palestinians there should be no preconditions and no freeze of constructoon beyond the Green Line for peace talks to resume, and that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The fact that the American president refrained from setting a timetable for the negotiations was also perceived as an achievement.

“If the core issues are solved of sovereignty and security the settlement issue will be solved,” Obama said in Ramallah on Thursday.

On the question of Iran, analysts agreed that Israel had several reason to be pleased: First, Obama made it clear that Israel has the right to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. Second, the president said that Israel could rely on the U.S., which would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Third, Obama said that continued talks with Iran were not unlimited in time, stressing that “all options are on the table,” and that the U.S. was willing to make good on that threat.

“We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran,” Obama said, Wednesday during a press conference with Netanyahu. “Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Yet, the differences between Obama and Netanyahu on Iran remained apparent during that press conference. The Obama administration has so far resisted the prime minister’s calls to set a “red line,” a point that, if crossed by Iran’s nuclear program, would prompt U.S. military action against the Islamic Republic.

“We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there is still time to do so,” Obama said Wednesday.

Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for the fact that Obama has “acted to thwart this [Iranian] threat, both through determined diplomacy and strong sanctions that are getting stronger yet,” but noted that those efforts have not changed Iran’s behavior.

“Notwithstanding our joint efforts and your great success in mobilizing the international community, diplomacy and sanctions so far have not stopped Iran’s nuclear program,” Netanyahu said.

Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who is considered close to Netanyahu, and who also serves on the influential Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Friday that “there was doubt” about America’s commitment to stop Iran from going nuclear.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Hanegbi said, “American presidents in the past have made stern statements regarding North Korea, but that at the moment of truth the Americans balked.” The outcome, Hanegbi said, “is known to all.”

This story first appeared in Israel Hayom and is distributed with the permission of that newspaper.

1 Comment

  • Obama says a Palestinian nation is good for business but refused to have the USA be a nation that sponsored its creation at the UN only recently.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Book Reviews The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    Romirowsky and Joffe’s book Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief is an important volume for those interested in truly understanding the origins of the Palestinian refugee issue. Utilizing a treasure trove of newly released documents, the authors link UNRWA’s (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) origins to the Quakers/American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). For those readers who thought they knew most of the Middle East story, Romirowsky and Joffe’s version provides another twist. The authors meticulously [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.