Around the web: Reactions to Obama’s Israel visit

President Obama greeted by children waving Israeli and American flags at a welcoming ceremony at Shimon Peres’ residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. (Uri Lenz/FLASH90/JTA)


While the hype attending President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the Middle East last week might not have equalled that of a papal announcement, it was pretty darn close. And needless to say, within the Israeli and Jewish media, it was significantly more pronounced.

So everyone had to weigh in on the events of the week, which, we have to admit, were quite newsworthy. Huge chat time between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; a notable speech to young Israels about the prospects for peace; visits with Palestinian leaders; and a startling apology by Bibi to Turkey for the deaths sustained in the Gaza flotilla, all figured prominently in coverage rife with both facts and speculation.

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So of all the noise that issued forth from the visit, what were some of the most notable reactions, at least among those that got published? Let’s take a look. 

A great summary of the trip: David Horovitz and his staff at the online Times of Israel produced a very nice and to-the-point overview of the Obama visit in both words and pictures.

A fine prediction and explanation piece: Before the visit unfolded, some were busy working on what it might mean to Israel, its relations with the United States, and geopolitics. Haaretz interviewed Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic on his take, and Goldberg played it pretty straight up. Particularly interesting was Goldberg’s take that Israelis don’t understand Obama as “the most Jewish president the United States has ever had” and that his “Jewishness” stems from his relations with liberal and Reform Jews in America. Goldberg also offered views on Obama and Secretary of State Kerry vis a vis both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.

Most shameless spinning from the right — before: One of the biggest blusters came, no surprise, from former American United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. In what could only be described as chutzpah, Bolton in a Jerusalem Post op-ed insisted that America as a whole is monolithic in its opposition to its own president: “So here’s the real message to Israelis from Americans: Whatever our religious backgrounds, we do not agree with Obama’s views on Israel or the Middle East.” His less than analytical utterances included such gems as, “the chances of Obama actually using force against Iran’s nuclear program are as close to absolute zero as one can get except in outer space.” I guess Bolton doesn’t agree with Goldberg’s “Jewishness,” then?

Most predictable response from the left—after: Rabbi Michael Lerner’s reflections on the Thursday Obama speech. Little, if anything, new under the sun, but feel free (and it also offers the full text of the speech itself).

Best “glass is 90 percent empty” piece: So…Obama stands up before students in his seminal speech on the trip, calls pointed attention to the plight of the common Palestinian, and urges the younger Israeli generation to get involved so as to ensure a peaceful and just future for two peoples. And yet, the trip is deemed a major insult to Palestinians, according to one writer. Writing on Al Jazeera, Dr. Ghada Karmi takes Obama to task for offering no hope for negotiations or a viable two-state future: “Obama’s visit has shown that no help for their plight will be forthcoming from the US, (or anyone else). They have one last card and they must play it now: to abandon their leaderships both in the West Bank and Gaza and throw their efforts behind a demand for equal rights, including citizenship, under Israeli rule.” 

Best “what did the students think” piece was actually a nice set of pieces in the Times with direct and diverse perspectives. From a hopeful Palestinian medical student at Ben-Gurion University to an open-minded law student raised in an ultra Orthodox household, a variety of young voices weigh in on what they heard and their perspectives on what might come out of the visit.

The Jewish online publication Tablet presents another set of comments from a student, too.

And here’s the best “everyone’s got it wrong” take, as Jonathan Tobin takes both the left and right to task in advance for likely misunderstanding the impact (or lack thereof) of Obama’s visit.

Huh? Someone actually offering a measured, thoughtful critique of all sides in the debate? That sounds far too…um…reasonable.