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News & Politics News & Politics

Obama faces battle to woo Israeli public

Posted by on Mar. 20, 2013 at 12:13 AM
  • 13 Replies

March 19, 2013 1:00 pm

President Barack Obama will face a sceptical audience when he tries to take his political charm offensive directly to the Israeli people this week with a message directed at their security fears and Israel’s history.

After several weeks of trying to go over the heads of congressional leaders and appeal directly to American voters about budget issues, Mr Obama will adopt something of a similar approach in Jerusalem as he seeks to reintroduce himself to the Israeli public.

After his early attempt as president to reach out to Arab public opinion, the political calculation of the White House is that if Mr Obama can achieve a closer rapport with Israeli voters, he will have more leverage over prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when it comes to difficult decisions about Iran or the Israel-Palestine peace process.

But Mr Obama, who will visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, faces an uphill task winning over an Israeli electorate that is doubtful about his intentions and has so far shown little enthusiasm for his visit.

“The perception was that co-operation between Israel and the US on security issues was very intensive, but he obviously hasn’t really addressed the Israeli public the way he did the Arab Muslim public,” says Shlomo Avineri, professor of politics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “This is why he will address Israelis and create an atmosphere of trust, which he didn’t have until now.”

Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu are both likely to make great efforts to be seen on good terms following their sometimes fractious relationship in the president’s first term. But Mr Obama’s agenda, which does not include a visit to the Knesset, but does include a speech to Israeli students, is designed to overcome misgivings among the Israeli public about his approach to the Middle East.

At Tel Aviv airport, he will inspect a missile battery that is part of the Iron Dome missile defence system which was partly paid for by the Obama administration.

Mr Obama will also take the more unusual step of visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, and will view the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum which Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, describes as “a testament to the ancient Jewish connection to Israel”.

In choosing such locations, the White House is addressing criticism it has received from some in Israel and the US that Mr Obama believes that Israel only exists because of the Holocaust and does not have a deeper historical claim in the region.

“In his Cairo speech, he did defend Israel, but bought into a narrative that Israel was only created because of the Holocaust. He is trying to establish another narrative about Israel that is about Zionism,” says Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel now at the Brookings Institution. “If the balance can shift a bit in the president’s favour, then he might get a more pliable Netanyahu.”

However Mr Obama is starting from a low base in Israel, with one poll last week showing that only 10 per cent of Israelis view him favourably. At the Hebrew University on nearby Mount Scopus, students express mixed emotions about Mr Obama’s visit on Monday. “Four years ago, I felt he was anti-Israel,” says Zvi, a psychology student who declined to give his last name. “The Cairo speech is a good example.”

He says he does not like the way Mr Obama dealt with Mr Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister visited Washington. About this week’s visit, he says: “It’s a good move to do.”

Hanan Abu Hussein, a Palestinian master’s student in art history, disavowed any interest in the visit. “He’s not coming for us – he’s coming for the Israeli people,” she says. “He’s continuing Bush’s policies.”

In the eastern Jerusalem district of Ma’ale HaZeytim, where a Jewish settlement of block-like apartments sits in the middle of the traditionally Arab neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud, both Israelis and Palestinians have low expectations for the visit.

“I don’t think anything is going to change now,” says Ahmed Ghoul, who runs a butcher shop in the area and holds US citizenship. “In America, anybody who talks about the Israeli occupation is anti-Semitic; the power of Aipac keeps it that way,” he says of the influential pro-Israel Jewish-American lobby group.

Nearby, Daniela Silber, a settler pulling her minivan into the settlement’s parking garage, complains about having to drive to other parts of Jerusalem to shop because of tensions in the area. “It’s far and it’s closed, and we have a lot of children,” she says. “It’s very hostile. We cannot go by foot.” She too is sceptical about the president’s visit. “I think he doesn’t understand the real issues we have here.”
by on Mar. 20, 2013 at 12:13 AM
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SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 12:15 AM
1 mom liked this

The charm offensive. With 10% support among Israelis, and four years of disrespecting their Prime Minister.

And completely ignoring Israel every time he tours countries of the Middle East.

And even the Palestinians are not hopeful anything will change.

I'm not going to hold my breath.

cammibear
by Bronze Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 1:12 AM
3 moms liked this
This trip is a joke.
Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 1:17 AM
1 mom liked this

It's embarrassing. Israelis know the effort is not sincere. Obama has only a 10% approval rate? They know our President does not respect their PM or their country - even though he says he does. My guess is someone forced him into the trip.

But they also know Americans are very divided in our opinions on the policies and work performance of our own President. 


Quoting cammibear:

This trip is a joke.



grandmab125
by Platinum Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 1:28 AM
2 moms liked this

 From my post, Does Obama's Israel trip have a prayer?....I think the last two paragraphs sum up his trip really well:

"But we should not underestimate the Obama team's skill at substituting spectacle for substance. Rejecting a speech to the Knesset, it scheduled a campaign-style event in a Jerusalem convention center, no doubt hoping the Obama "citizen of the world" schtick will numb the brains and stir the hearts of young Israeli dreamers. A similar gathering is planned with Abbas at a youth center in the West Bank.

So a peddler selling visions of hope and change will come to the Mideast. If its citizens are lucky, he will leave without making things worse."

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 2:10 AM

BUMP!

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 2:40 AM

BUMP!

cammibear
by Bronze Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 9:55 AM
2 moms liked this
My dh recently took a trip to Israel to see first hand what was going on over there. He says he wishes every American could visit and see for themselves how different it is from the propaganda our media paints for us.

Obama is being threatened by the Arabs, so I don't see him doing anything or saying anything that's going to win over the Israelis. Believe it or not, not all peoples are as naive and easy to deceive as Americans are.


Quoting SallyMJ:

It's embarrassing. Israelis know the effort is not sincere. Obama has only a 10% approval rate? They know our President does not respect their PM or their country - even though he says he does. My guess is someone forced him into the trip.

But they also know Americans are very divided in our opinions on the policies and work performance of our own President. 



Quoting cammibear:

This trip is a joke.





Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
Billiejeens
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Obama's limo breaks down in Israel. 

 

Billiejeens
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Petro, not Diesel - moron.

Billiejeens
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 11:59 AM

Oh boy, good thing the world loves us now.

In preparation for US president's Mideast visit, protestors say he is not welcome in their city, throw shoes at US diplomatic vehicle.Palestinian protestors

Palestinian protestors Photo: Reuters
Palestinians in Bethlehem set fire to pictures of US President Barack Obama on Monday, saying he was not welcome in their city.

Scores of protesters gathered near Manger Square and threw shoes at a US diplomatic vehicle as it arrived at the scene as part of preparations for Obama’s visit to the city later this week.

The protesters also set fire to signs posted in the city earlier this week reminding Obama that Palestinians still don’t have 3G communications technology.

Similar anti-Obama demonstrations are expected to take place in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities in the coming days.

Palestinian Authority policemen did not intervene to stop the Bethlehem demonstrators from burning the pictures of Obama.

A PA security officer said that the PA would not act against those who seek permission to protest against Obama’s visit.

There were even indications that the PA leadership was encouraging or initiating some of the protests.

At the Bethlehem demonstration, some protesters carried a placard belonging to the PA Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees that read: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The protesters also trampled on Obama’s picture, chanting, “America is the head of the snake.”

“We came here today to tell Obama that we don’t want 3G in Palestine,” said Samir Odeh, a Fatah activist in Bethlehem. “We want a state, the release of prisoners and an end to settlement construction.

We also want to see our refugees return to their homes.”

Waving a shoe in his hand, Fayez Mansour of the Dehaishe refugee camp near Bethlehem said that Obama was not welcome in the city.

“We won’t receive Obama with flowers and a red carpet,” he declared. “We will receive him with shoes. We want to tell America that we hate you and you have no place here. We don’t want to see Obama in Palestine. He is coming to save Israel. He does not have anything to offer our people.”

Another protester who asked not to be identified said many Palestinians in the city were opposed to Obama’s visit, “especially since he has made it clear that he is coming as a pilgrim.”

The Palestinians, he added, have sent a message to Obama that he is not welcome in the Palestinian territories.

“Obama is coming to help the Israelis,” he said. “He is not coming to help the Palestinians. He has been supporting Israeli occupation and oppression of our people.”

Mazen al-Azza, one of the organizers of the anti-Obama protest, said that the main objective of the president’s visit was to support Israel politically and militarily.

“Obama is not welcome in Palestine,” Azza said. “He has done nothing for the Palestinians.

He does not care about the Palestinian prisoners who are being held in Israel.”

Ahlam al-Wahsh, another activist, said that Obama would be welcome in Bethlehem only if he manages to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners and stop settlement construction.

Meanwhile, US helicopters landed at the PA presidential compound in Ramallah on Monday as part of preparations for Obama’s visit.

PA officials said that the helicopters were rehearsing the arrival of Obama in Ramallah. The officials denied that the helicopters were carrying US security guards.

The arrival of the helicopters in Ramallah drew strong protests from some Palestinians, who said they too were opposed to Obama’s visit.

As one of the helicopters hovered over the compound, a woman standing near the area shouted, “Allahu Akbar! Obama is not welcome in Palestine. He is an Israeli agent.”

Earlier, PA officials said that the Americans would be in charge of security arrangements during Obama’s visit to Ramallah and Bethlehem.
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