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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776
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Bennett on Obama’s speech: No Nation Is Occupier of its Homeland

"It's time for new, creative concepts to resolve the conflict in the Middle East."

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Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett speaking to reporters in Jerusalem.

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett speaking to reporters in Jerusalem.
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90



President Barack Obama’s speech in front of (mostly leftist) students in the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, provoked reactions from across the political spectrum in Israel.

There was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked the visiting president (Thank you, Sir, may I have another?) for his ” unconditional support for Israel,” adding that he, too, agrees with President that we should “promote peace that ensures the safety of all the citizens of Israel.” Netanyahu also agreed with Obama that “we have a great country.”

Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), sounded a great deal less enthusiastic about the president’s speech, when he told Maariv: “Obama’s statement certainly came out of concern for Israel and out of true friendship, but we’ve seen only this morning the results of our previous withdrawal (from Gaza) in Sderot (where a missile landed on the backyard of a local home), as well as in thousands of victims over the years. It’s time for new, creative concepts to resolve the conflict in the Middle East, including the idea that a nation isn’t the occupier of its own homeland.”

Jewish Home faction Chair MK Ayelet Shaked agreed that “Obama is a true friend of Israel, it can’t be denied. But at the end of the day only we will absorb the tragic and devastating consequences of establishing a Palestinian state.”

She argued that “this is why the people have chosen, just this week, a government whose platform does not support the two state solution, and the U.S. President, for whom democracy is a beacon, should respect that.”

The Judea and Samaria Council’s official response was: “President Obama’s speech was warm and embracing, but, at the same time, he tried to create the illusion of public support for moves that are dangerous to Israel. This is why, in our opinion, students from Ariel University had not been invited. Israelis have already experienced such illusions exploding in our faces, and will not support the dangers presented by Obama. The Israeli public expresses its views in democratic elections, not through inciting young people against their leadership.”

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) also disapproved of Obama’s remarks on the Jewish state. “It has been the position of the U.S. government in recent years, which we oppose.”

But Tibi was pleased with the second part of the speech, because of its “detailed references to Palestinian suffering and the occupation, as well as his understanding of the suffering of the families of Palestinian prisoners, and the talk about establishing a Palestinian state as an act of justice.”

Tibi said he enjoyed “the refreshing change in the applause of thousands of students in response to Obama’s poignant and brave words about ending the occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state. Of course I was sorry that he did not see fit to refer to the inequality of Israeli Arab citizens, but, altogether, those words require genuine action so the Jerusalem speech won’t have the same fate as the Cairo speech.”

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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