The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
President Obama will finally follow up his June 4, 2009 visit to Cairo with one to Israel. Though he was just a stone’s throw from Israel at the time, he chose not to go the Jewish state and it is not too hard to figure out why.
Early on in his speech at Cairo University he pulled no punches: “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world….” The new president may not have meant his words to be understood this way, but many supporters of Israel saw them as sending a message that the longstanding U.S.-Israel relationship would be recalibrated to one extent or another in order to win the trust of Muslims.
In a sense, this inauspicious beginning soured Jewish and Israeli perceptions of Mr. Obama and created fear about his feelings toward the Jewish state.
In retrospect, at least, much of that fear appears to have been groundless; with the exception of his view on settlements (which at any rate dovetail pretty much with the views of prior U.S. presidents) and his at times testy personal relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, his administration has been supportive of Israel at the UN and other international forums, and U.S.-Israel military and intelligence ties are as robust as they’ve ever been.
But the old adage about first impressions has certainly held true here, and the suspicion with which Mr. Obama is viewed by many in the pro-Israel community is as palpable today as it was in 2009. Indeed, some are suggesting that the current trip is designed to address the problems created by the Cairo trip and speech.
One thing that stood out in the speech and which many saw as troubling was his characterization of the relationship between the United States and Israel:
America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
At first glance that statement might seem as nothing less than praiseworthy; here, after all, was an American president in the heart of the Muslim Middle East telling an Egyptian audience that the U.S.-Israel friendship is “unbreakable.” But what disturbed so many and set the alarm bells ringing was that, perhaps inadvertently, he was embracing the Arab narrative that Jews have no historical claims in the Middle East and the establishment of a Jewish state there was the result of Western guilt feelings and penance for the Holocaust.
Following his connecting the Holocaust with Israel, the president said:
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation…. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.
So he seemed to be saying that while the Jews are artificial transplants to the region, the Palestinians are indigenous. Moreover, he seemed to equate the victimization of the Jews by the most ruthlessly efficient killing machine in history to the Palestinian experience under the dislocations and deprivations of Israeli occupation.
Of course, Mr. Obama, as noted above, has thus far come through for Israel both militarily and diplomatically for the better part of his presidency. Whether that can be attributed to political expediency or to a genuine appreciation for Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship on Mr. Obama’s part remains to be seen.
Mr. Obama’s main challenge during this week’s visit will be to try to reverse the negative first impressions he created four years ago. Frankly, the fact that he has refused to visit such politically symbolic places as the Knesset is not encouraging. But he will be going to places that underscore the Jewish connection to the land such as the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, which contains the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls that testify to Jewish life in the Middle East more than 2,000 years ago. He also plans to lay a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism.
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We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.
During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai
20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse
Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting
She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes
Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times
Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program
“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.
The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.
The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.
“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”
“Let’s get something straight so we don’t kid each other…[the Iranians] already have paved a path to a bomb’s worth of material,” said Mr. Biden. “Iran could get there now if they walked away in two to three months without a deal.”
The president is unwilling to cede any of what he considers his exclusive powers in the area of foreign policy and has struggled mightily to keep the Senate away from any role in the kind of deal to be negotiated.
A committed Religious Zionist, he was a sought-after adviser on Zionist affairs around the world.
More important, Mr. Obama is simply acceding to Iran’s position on the timing of the lifting of sanctions.
For our community, Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy record will doubtless attract the most attention. And it is a most interesting one.
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