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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’s visit’

Obama’s Visit: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Given the shape of Jewish history, verbal expressions of friendship that others would take as the norm are treated as overwhelming acts of wonderfulness. This tradition goes back to the days of monarchies, when Jews saw themselves as powerless people who were passive recipients of the king’s generosity.

One reason that idea continued was because expressing the idea that Jews might have some power, some ability to shape events, was a major theme of antisemitism. Indeed, claiming that there is an all-powerful Jewish lobby or even of a Jewish-controlled media (which is laughable) remain to this day one of the main earmarks of antisemitic thinking.

What is the purpose of hasbara, that is, the effort to explain Israel’s situation, experiences, perceptions, and goals? It is not to make everyone love Israel or Jews, though that would be nice, but to create conditions so that Jews are not attacked or materially hurt by hostile neighbors and so Israel can have the environment in which it can operate with enough international support to do what it needs to do.

Let’s discuss these themes in the context of President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel.

From an Israeli, though not necessarily from an American, viewpoint it is absurd to be “pro-Obama” or “anti-Obama.” The issue is what Obama does in regard to Israeli interests. This is not necessarily the same criteria that American Jews would take, given their additional involvement and interest in many other issues that have nothing to do with international affairs.

In Israeli terms, for example, Richard Nixon was a good president. So was Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan. Note the wide differences in their domestic policies, reputations, and worldviews in an American context..

If Obama is now going to be considered friendly toward Israel then, to use his own words in a different context, he didn’t build it on his own. Indeed, if Obama had his own way, if he could do anything he wanted to do, he would have been terribly unfriendly, the most unfriendly American president in history. (Jimmy Carter’s hostility came almost completely after leaving office.) And in many ways, that is how he began his presidency.

But Obama is neither a free agent nor a fanatic out to hurt Israel at any price. As president he interacts with reality, at least on this issue. There were three categories of factors that changed the strong hostility of Obama’s original position into something else.

First, internal American factors: There is a tradition seen as the norm of strong support for Israel by the United States; Pro-Israel public opinion; and a largely pro-Israel Congress.

Second, regional factors, which include:

The lack of cooperation by the Palestinians who gave Obama zero assistance in his attempts to help them. Imagine if the Palestinian Authority had said in 2009: “We want negotiations right away and peace as fast as possible. But we expect Obama to get us what we demand, including big Israeli concessions in exchange for very little. President Obama, you can have peace if you only bash Israel!” But they did the opposite, turning down every Obama initiative.

The lack of cooperation by the Arab states generally, which did not take advantage of Obama’s offer to help them get major Israeli concessions through U.S. pressure.

Iran’s intransigence.

And, the fact that Islamists proved Obama wrong and became more radical.

In short, Obana discovered that distancing himself from Israel bought no gain.

Third, actions by Israel and American Jews:

The Israeli government’s strategy of cooperating with Obama as much as possible to avoid giving him a—you can call it a reason or an excuse—for a quarrel.

The tireless work of American Jews, both supporters and opponents of Obama, to explain the issues and mobilize support. This includes those whose strong criticism stung the administration.

It is not that Obama was nice toward Israel all along; it is that there is a new policy based on his realizing there wasn’t going to be a breakthrough to a comprehensive peace agreement.

There are, however, still two problem areas. First, the president expresses sympathy but not agreement with Israel. His view is: I understand why you act as you do but you are wrong. You can obtain lasting peace fast if only you aren’t stubborn and suspicious.

Two Cities Rife with Tension, as Protesters Clash with Police

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Jerusalem and Ramallah have erected massive security presence ahead of Obama’s visit. At any given time there will be 5,000 Israeli police and security officers on the streets of Jerusalem, where many areas will be cordoned off and watched over by police helicopters escorting the presidential convoy.

According to the Palestinian security forces, some 3,000 Arab policemen will be deployed in Area A, which is under complete PA control, where protests have been on the rise in recent weeks.

Palestinian Authority police on Tuesday encountered dozens of anti-Obama protesters, Reuters reported. A very large number of officers and plainclothes policemen blocked the angry crowd from arriving at the offices of PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in a large scale shoving match that did not result in serious injuries.

Palestinians are not expecting much from Obama’s visit, especially after U.S. officials have labored in recent weeks to lower expectations about the revival of peace talks with Israel.

“It’s a slap in the face. People are angry and disappointed that this far into his presidency, Obama has done nothing, and aid to Israel’s occupation continues to flow,” demonstrator Huwaida Arraf told Reuters.

You see? Everybody in the Middle East resents Obama, not just right-wing Jews.

During his three-day visit, the U.S. president will hold separate meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and President Abbas in Ramallah.

On Friday, Obama will visit Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of a major Christian figure of Jewish birth. Then the presidential convoy will ride across the Jordan River into the State of Jordan.

On Monday, in what could be coined road rage in effigy, a dozen Bethlehemites drove their cars over a banner with Obama’s face and painted a swastika on his forehead.

Shoulda’ done that last November…

According to Reuters, Palestinian singer Alaa Shaham and fellow artists recorded a satirical video clip in which Obama is shown waiting at an Israeli checkpoint and driving through a refugee camp in his shiny BMW.

I’ve searched for that supposed video, which, according to Reuters, since being uploaded to YouTube on Monday night has been viewed more than 10,000 times—didn’t find it. Would be very grateful if a reader posted a link in the comments section.

“We’re trying to send him a message. We welcome him, it’s an important visit of course. But US policy has frustrated Palestinians – it disregards their cause,” Shaham told Reuters.

Well, if you continue to post video messages no one can find – expect to be disregarded…

Two Jerusalem Hotels Buzzing with Pre-Obama Rush

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

While Jerusalem has been visually primed for U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit—more than 1,000 American and Israeli flags dot major roads and streets along with signs and banners that read “Unbreakable Alliance”—Jerusalem hotels have also been gearing up for their guests.

Along with Obama, the fifth American president to visit Israel, approximately 500 foreign journalists are visiting Jerusalem to cover the presidential trip. The White House press corps will be staying at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel, while the President and his entourage will be housed nearby in the best, most expensive suite of the prestigious King David Hotel.

The management teams at both hotels are no strangers to foreign dignitaries and have long traditions of hosting world leaders, the Inbal hotel is facing a major assignment, hosting one of the biggest media operations in the history of Israel.

“The requirements were very different this time around,” Inbal’s General Manager Bruno H.P. De Schuyter told Tazpit News Agency. For the more than 200 foreign reporters staying at his hotel, the Inbal is providing a special media center on the premises.

The Inbal Hotel media center for the White House press corps. Photo by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

The Inbal Hotel media center for the White House press corps. Photo by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

“The Inbal was chosen by the White House because it’s the only hotel in Jerusalem that offers the logistics suitable for such a press center, as well as for its central location in the capital, and its views of the Old City as background,” explained De Schuyter. Several other Jerusalem hotels competed for the assignment of hosting the White House press corps and the rest of Obama’s press entourage.

In addition to providing the media infrastructure, dubbed the “nerve center,” the Inbal also had to contend with the food limitations that next week’s Passover holiday entails (no leavened bread, wheat and other grains). With the hotel kitchen already kosher for Passover, journalists who checked as early as Monday have been eating the holiday -approved food. “This is good!” remarked one correspondent to another, after taking a bite of the kosher-for-Passover sandwich.

“Our chef was extremely creative in designing the menu for the visiting guests,” commented De Schuyter.

At the King David, I was the last reporter on Tuesday morning to be given a tour before the hotel premises were sealed off to the public for the President’s arrival on Wednesday, March 20.

The historic prestige of the King David, built in 1930, is immediately felt as one enters the famous hotel, has most recently hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin, former French President Nicholas Sarkozy and, last November, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama stayed at the King David when he visited Israel in 2008, during his presidential campaign.

“We knew he would be back on this visit,” Yoni Forsyth, King David’s spokesperson told Tazpit News Agency.

“There’s never been a complaint from a world leader,” Forsyth continued. “We keep a guest book full of personal comments and compliments – Bono even wrote a poem when he stayed at the King David last year.”

New uniforms have been tailored for the staff, the red carpets have been cleaned and every inch of the hotel inspected.

Forsyth pointed to the balcony overlooking the King David garden, where Winston Churchill smoked one of his cigars. “The hotel is part of Israel’s history, Forsyth said. Then, pointing to a beautiful wooden table, he added: “The Jordanian peace agreement was signed here.”

“The staff is very familiar with hosting important political celebrities. Some of the employees taking care of President Obama have attended to Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Anwar Sadaat,” he elaborated.

Dror Danino, King David’s manager, said he was looking forward to greeting President Obama and ensuring his stay is pleasant. “The White House team has been great to work with—we know exactly what will happen at each moment during the President’s stay.”

“The next time we get some sleep, however, will be after the Passover Seder next week,” Danino quipped with a tired smile.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/two-jerusalem-hotels-buzzing-with-pre-obama-rush/2013/03/20/

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