Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Obama in Israel: Charging for His Charm

March 24, 2013 2:04 am 2 comments

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during an exhibition of technological innovations, "Israel Technology for a Better World," at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013, during Obama's three-day visit to the region. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO/FLASH90.

U.S. President Barack Obama taught us all during his speech on Thursday at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem how to touch the hearts of every last young person in a tightly packed room of Israeli students. His visit to the Holy Land showed Israelis his strong rhetorical abilities. Observers from across the political spectrum were pleased by his declarations. Everyone walked away with the quotations that they wanted.

The president’s visit to Israel could have been titled “Obama in Wonderland.”

During the first half of the U.S. president’s speech on Thursday (the sugar-coated part), Obama came off as a member of the Likud party. He promised that Iran wouldn’t go nuclear, and that “you”—which is to say, Israelis—”are not alone.” He said that last part in Hebrew. Obama spoke at length about the security issues that every Israeli faces. He called to mind Osher Twito, the boy whom Obama met in Sderot, and didn’t forget to mention the five Israelis who were killed in the bus bombing in Bulgaria last summer. He disregarded the legion of commentators who worship him and who prophesied that he would put pressure on Israel, dictate Israel’s agenda and impose a deadline on the Jewish state. Actually, Obama didn’t even mention a freeze of Israeli construction beyond the Green Line. For Israelis, it was like a dream.

And then came the second half of the speech (the bitter pill), in which the U.S. president suddenly became a Peace Now activist, his true form. Deploying the same charm and gushing congeniality, and with equally polished rhetorical skill, Obama explained to Israelis (albeit with far fewer Hebrew interpolations) that peace is possible.

“It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished,” he said. It is forbidden to prevent Palestinians from tending their lands or to prevent the freedom of movement for students in the West Bank, he proclaimed, and you cannot expel Palestinians from their homes. “Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer,” the president declared.

After having cast his vote for Likud, he reached back into the ballot box, pulled out his envelope, and slipped in a Meretz (Israel’s left-wing party) card as well. Again, it was like a dream—this time a bad one. It wasn’t so much his rhetoric as it was his sharp political U-turn.

Obama came to Israel to charm Israelis, and he succeeded. He chose to speak directly to young people so they would help new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry revitalize upcoming peace talks. Obama expects Israel’s young people to impel their government to make concessions. What he may not understand is that these same young people elected this very government, which believes in the equal burden, in all of its manifestations. Obama spoke openly about two states for two people, one of which is Jewish. The Palestinian Authority must also come to terms with this fact.

You can’t say Israelis were unimpressed by the world’s No. 1 citizen. But it isn’t yet known whether Obama can be added to the ranks of presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who, during their presidencies, oversaw the implementation of lasting peace treaties. Or, perhaps, Israelis will simply remember Obama for his kingly speech at the convention center in Jerusalem, one that, down the road, will be added to his growing list of lofty orations.

Boaz Bismuth is a columnist and correspondent for Israel Hayom, whose English-language content is distributed in the U.S. exclusively by


Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Food Spirituality/Tradition ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah

    ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah – Babka. Strudel. Stollen. Danish pastry. Not to mention Gugelhopf and Charlotte. The names set the mouth to watering and conjure up lovingly concocted pastries that feed the body and comfort the soul. If you didn’t have a grandmother who baked these delicacies, you wish that you had. George Greenstein was never a grandmother, but his life as a baker provided his children and grandchildren with memories infused with the smell of fresh baked bread and rugelach. His daughters, Julia […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’

    Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’ – There is a game that all of us have played at some time in our lives. We ask ourselves: What would my life be like if I had gone to this school instead of that one, or if I had married this girl instead of that one? In their newly published book The Ambassador, authors Yehuda Avner and Matt Rees play that game with modern Jewish history. Avner — who died earlier this year, and was a speechwriter, secretary and adviser to […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Lifestyle A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A unique group of young fashion bloggers and designers recently visited Israel to learn more about the country’s fashion industry and diverse culture. Hailing from the Philippines, Korea, Kenya, Japan, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K., the 10 participants toured the country and met with top Israeli fashion designers throughout last week. “It was an amazing experience,” said Meissene Maghni from Toulouse, France — one of the participants of the program. “I’m Muslim and I really wanted to see Israel […]

    Read more →