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Obama's Passionate Plea
The president praises Israel as he seeks to restart the peace process.
Times of Israel
y the end, the students were
applauding almost every sen-
tence. They stood and cheered
when it was over, roaring their approval.
Barack Obama, widely perceived by
Israelis before this visit as a cold president,
a leader dutifully supporting Israel but
lacking any real empathy for it, trans-
formed that image in the course of the
powerhouse central address of his visit
here on March 21 — for the 1,000 ecstatic
young Israelis in Jerusalem's International
Conference Center, and doubtless for many,
many Israelis watching on live television
He also, deftly and subtly, unveiled a
vision for Israel that all Israelis would love
to realize — an Israel at peace, in a region
at peace, thriving financially, admired mor-
ally, no longer at physical risk.
But the route he set out to that glorious
future — don't be daunted by the risks or
deterred by the extremists, work assiduous-
ly to build trust with the Palestinians and
those many in the region who he said seek
the very same future as young Israelis do
— that's where his utopian vision became
anything but consensual.
Indeed it resonated as an unmistakable
challenge to the skepticism of the Israeli
political leadership under "my friend Bibi."
For this was the address of a passionate,
pro-Israel advocate, a true friend, a Zionist.
A left-wing Zionist, employing his cha-
risma, his authority and his oratory to try
to shift Israelis into his camp.
It was a deft, brilliantly conceived speech.
He told Israelis how moral they are, how
admirably creative they are, how smart with
those 10 Nobel prizes, how democratic, how
prosperous and how mighty — the most
powerful country in the region. He told
them that the world's strongest nation stood
unshakably with them. "So long as there is
a United States of America, Atem Lo Levad"
— you are not alone.
And having built them up, convinced
them of their near-invincibility, he showed
them a theoretical future that he insisted
could be realized if they would only trust
in their strength sufficiently to take risks
for peace. A future in which the security
threats will recede. The prosperity will
increase. The moral stain of occupation will
disappear. All it takes is that determined,
constant push for peace. How could they
A U.S. - Israel Reset?
As predicted, this speech was the "reset" of
Obama's personal relationship with Israel.
It was the speech in which he showed his
knowledge of Israel, quoting its religious
texts and its political visionaries, recalling
the suffering of exile, the yearning for the
homeland. It was the speech in which he
acknowledged the extent of the hostility
tiny Israel has faced and continues to face
in this region, the relentless series of wars
it has been forced to fight for its survival.
He knew, he told the listening Israelis,
that you live in a region in which many have
rejected your very right to exist. He knew, he
said, that the security of the Jewish people in
Israel cannot be taken for granted. He knew
Israel had seized opportunities for peace
with Egypt and Jordan under Menachem
Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, and tried hard to
make peace with the Palestinians, including
under Ehud Olmert at Annapolis.
He knew that the 2000 Lebanon pullout
and the 2005 Gaza withdrawal had been
met with rocket fire, and that "the hand of
friendship" had too often been met with
rejectionism and terror.
He knew. He understood. He empathized.
And yet, he argued, there was no choice
but to keep trying. A democratic, Jewish
Israel requires a Palestinian state, he said.
He quoted Ariel Sharon — seek to maintain
the entire Land of Israel and you risk losing
it all. The Palestinians deserve a state, he
said. Israelis deserve it. It's the only path to
security, to an end to isolation, to that bet-
Again as predicted, it was also the speech
in which the president emphatically, even
explicitly, reached out to young Israelis
over the heads of their political leaders —
because, as he put it, politicians won't take
risks unless the people push them. Ordinary
people can achieve extraordinary things.
This address was a sustained appeal to
what Israelis would like to think are their
best qualities — a presidential plea to
young Israelis to put aside their skepticism,
their misgivings, even their bitter experi-
ence in this unforgiving region, and utilize
their optimism, their zest, their brains, their
creativity, to work for a miraculous trans-
formation. Wasn't it David Ben-Gurion, he
recalled, who said that, in Israel, being a
realist means believing in miracles.
No overly blatant confrontation with
Benjamin Netanyahu, who speaks of Israel
facing unprecedented threats and challeng-
es, but a blatantly different vision. This was
Shimon Peres' Israel, not Netanyahu's, and
Shimon Peres' Middle East — a mindset
many Israelis have left behind since the fail-
ure of Camp David 2000 and the outbreak
of the second intifada.
You, the young people of Israel, "must
claim its future he said. They listened.
They cheered. Many of them may even
Emotionally, Obama's speech was
profoundly affecting and will likely have
moved many Israelis, shifting their opin-
ion of him, winning them over. Shifting
them politically? That's something quite
President Barack Obama speaks to
Israeli students at the Jerusalem
International Convention Center on
Renewing Turkish Ties
s President Obama was about
to leave Israel at the end of
his three-day visit, Prime
Minister Netanyahu spoke by phone
with Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, and they agreed to
restore normalization between Israel
and Turkey, including the dispatch of
ambassadors and the cancellation of
legal steps against IDF soldiers.
According to a statement from
Netanyahu's office, he made it clear
that the tragic results regarding the
Mavi Marmara ship were unintentional
and that Israel expressed regret
over injuries and loss of life. He also
apologized to the Turkish people for
any errors that could have led to loss
of life and agreed to complete the
agreement on compensation.
The two leaders agreed to contin-
ue to work on improving the humani-
tarian situation in the Palestinian
How Detroiters View Obama's Trip To Israel
e gave a rousing speech to Israeli
university students. He visited
the graves of assassinated Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the founder
of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl. He
visited Yad Vashem, met several times
with Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu
and reopened the lines of communica-
tion between Netanyahu and the Turkish
Prime Minister Recep Erdogen with a
simple phone call.
It was a good visit — to most.
Sharon Lipton, president of the
Jewish Community Relations Council
of Metropolitan Detroit, said the trip
improved relations with "our strongest ally
in the Middle East"
"His symbolic visits to
Herzl's grave and the
viewing of the Dead Sea
Scrolls underscored the
long Jewish historical
connection to the land"
she said. "The president
set a tone that is sup-
portive of Israel's right to exist and indi-
cated that he is willing to work on sub-
stantive issues including Iran, the fallout
from the conflict in Syria and the peace
Corey Rosen, a Michigan
State University student
and an intern with
said the motives for the
trip were evident.
Netanyahu haven't seen
eye-to-eye in the past,
but since the U.S. veto on the Palestinian
membership bid at the United Nations,
I think that relationship has been on the
mend" said Rosen of Farmington Hills.
"This state visit only reinforces the presi-
dent's and America's
support for Israel."
Hy Safran, a member
of the local Jewish and
lived in Jerusalem for a
year during the second
Obama on page 46
March 28 • 2013