As President Barack Obama works on his “Jerusalem Speech” to supplement his “Cairo Speech,” he should focus on three goals. First, the President should show Israel some love—Israelis need reassurance that Obama Hearts Israel. This need is rooted in millennia of persecution reinforced by recent decades of delegitimization, triggering lethal attacks against Jewish homes, schools, synagogues, and children. Second, the President should reassure Palestinians, trying to push the Middle East conflict from a zero-sum stalemate to a win-win. And third, he should try opening a window of hope, if not quite finding the key to opening the door to renewed negotiations and real progress.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his father Benzion attend the official memorial service for the late Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky at the Mt. Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, July 11, 2010. (Templar1307 via Flickr)
The first challenge is the easiest. Israelis love to be loved. While visiting Theodor Herzl’s grave, Obama should use Herzl’s life to affirm that the Jews are a people, a nation, not just a community of faith, with ties to their homeland stretching back millennia. Herzl was a nineteenth-century liberal nationalist, not an imperialist or colonialist, whose founding of modern Zionism predates the Holocaust by half a century. Truly understanding Herzl entails moving beyond the defensive Zionism—we need a Jewish state because non-Jews hate us—he is best remembered for. Herzl believed in liberal nationalism’s redemptive potential, dreaming that “the world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness.”
Obama should also acknowledge that Herzl’s messianic dream included saving black Africans after saving the Jews. Herzl believed that, beyond the victims of racism themselves, “only a Jew can fathom” African slavery, in all its “horror.” Zionist leaders embraced this vision so enthusiastically that Tanzania’s legendary president Julius Nyerere celebrated Golda Meir as “the mother of Africa.”
"This insane law, which was only removed from the agenda in the past because of Tzipi Livni’s steadfastness, has now been resurrected due to the strange alliance between Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid."
--Today's Haaretz Editorial takes a look at the return of a bill to make democracy subservient to Judaism in the State of Israel.
- West Bank settlement leaders seizing control of Israel's housing policy - With ministerial appointments complete, it has become clear that the drive to fix the real estate market will be led by those who were once at the forefront of the settlement movement. (Haaretz+)
- Netanyahu sold us out, say top Foreign Ministry officials - Israel's Foreign Ministry is in disarray: It has no minister, a deputy minister without clear powers, no involvement in talks with the Palestinians, and no say in Israel-U.S. strategic dialogue. Oh, and now there's a new Ministry for International Relations. (Israel Hayom)
- Israel likely to cut funding for popular Jewish-Arab dialogue - A project that brings Jewish and Arab teens together with the purpose of promoting coexistence is at risk of closing down as funding promised by the Education Ministry has not been forthcoming. (Haaretz+)
- Soldier sets himself on fire in Tel Aviv base - Soldier in Tel Aviv's Kirya base tries to immolate himself, stopped by other soldiers; claims he was not given home leave. (Ynet)
- IDF complains over Bar Refaeli's involvement in Israeli PR campaign - IDF spokesman sends an official letter to the Foreign Ministry arguing that by using Refaeli, who didn't complete her military service, the Foreign Ministry was sending the wrong message. (Haaretz+)
- Abbas urges EU to remove Hamas from list of terrorist organizations - Though Abbas' faction Fatah is at odds with rival Hamas, Palestinian Authority President insists that Hamas's policies are no different than his own. Abbas hints that if peace talks yield results, Palestinians will drop efforts to prosecute Israel. (Israel Hayom)
- Bulgaria will not take lead in blacklisting Hezbollah, says PM - Interim Prime Minister Marin Raikov says he won't push for EU sanctions on Lebanese Shiite group despite its clear link to Burgas attack. All 27 EU member states must agree on sanctions. Israel urges EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
Obama’s coming to Israel is considered a deus ex machina moment for many among us in the “peace camp” here in Israel, a unique opportunity where an American president who shares many of our values will intervene and perhaps finally save us from ourselves (or at least from our stubborn government). This sentiment is echoed of course by our partners abroad—and as our country's security apparatus prepares to shut down our roads for a couple of days of Obamamania, the world, and especially the U.S., is waking up to try and give peace a chance.
Well, let’s be honest. We’re not being called on to give “peace” a chance but rather to give “direct negotiations” a chance. After all, a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians seems so 90s. It reminds us of an era of optimism with dreams of a New Middle East.
Barack Obama watches as Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas shake hands at a trilateral meeting in New York on September 22, 2009. (Pete Souza / White House) (Charles Dharapak / AP Photo)
Today, the hope is not that we will achieve an historic peace, but that the sides will talk directly with each other. We don't discuss what they will talk about, but it’s important that they talk. Obama, we think, can provide a great opportunity. We wish to believe that a strong power from outside the region, an American power, will bring the unwilling sides back to the negotiating table. Talking is better than stalemate, right?
The problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes our problems can be sorted out at that table. But they can’t. Primarily because the leader of our government does not want two states—at least not in a way that is acceptable to the Palestinians or to the world. Sure, Netanyahu has used the phrase “two states” before, but when he did he also made it clear that the 1967 lines will not be the basis for a conversation about borders, a point which basically renders the phrase “two states” meaningless.
In lieu of a speech to the Knesset, President Obama will speak at the Jerusalem Convention Center (a monstrous but not unpleasant venue), to the Israeli public directly. As part of the promotion for the event, Obama’s people are inviting students from Israel’s universities—that is, those that fall within the Green Line. Students from Ariel University—which was recently upgraded to that status after a long and controversial struggle—are specifically not invited.
President Barack Obama arrives to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington, Sunday, May 22, 2011. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
After a small uproar, the Administration has explained this exclusion by the fact that only universities with whom the American embassy in Tel Aviv has some kind of program have been invited; it doesn’t have a program or partnership with Ariel, and so it was only proper to leave it out. When my colleague Sigal Samuel pressed the embassy directly for which universities, specifically, are invited, she was told: “Usually with embassy programs, we don’t really release the guest list.” The embassy is also holding a contest on its Facebook page, in which it will select up to 20 people based on the “originality and creativity” of their request to attend the speech.
It seems, then, that this is not a boycott of an institution that exists in a West Bank settlement that is hotly disputed in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But the more important implication here is what this tells us about Obama’s approach to the peace process for the next four years. Because this is the first real test of how committed he is to the resolving the conflict, and how determined he is to stand up to Israeli pressure.
One of the most tiresome things about a long-term engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the endless need to push back against those who insist on living in a more pleasurable but entirely fictive alternate reality. For many on both sides, the realities on the ground, or the legal and political facts, are simply too painful or disruptive to be acceptable. So they neurotically retreat into an alternate universe in which everything feels better.
There are innumerable examples of this on the Palestinian side, but among hard-core supporters of Israel, one of the most persistent imaginary realities is that there is no occupation and/or Israeli settlement activity is not prohibited by international law. Writing in the Jewish Journal, the reliably hawkish David Suissa has just engaged in an extended exercise in this kind of sophistry.
Jewish settlers stand on the rubble of a house destroyed by Israeli authorities in the West Bank, near the settlement of Migron, on Sept. 5. (Sebastian Scheiner / AP Photo)
The reason this is such a persistent shibboleth of hawkish pro-Israel propaganda is that occupying powers are bound to abide by the extensive international law and treaty obligations delineating the rights and responsibilities that accrue to this status. And the problem is that so much of what Israel has been doing in the occupied Palestinian territories is in direct and undeniable contravention of international law.
Like so many before him, Suissa makes two manifestly false claims. First, he flatly denies the territories are occupied. Second, he asserts that Israel has "a legal right to settle in the West Bank." He urges Israel to find a good lawyer to make these claims. But no serious attorney is going to take on this case, because it can't possibly be maintained.
All along Jerusalem Road, the road that links Ramallah with Jerusalem and passes through Qalandia refugee camp and Qalandia checkpoint, the signs that normally advertise new Palestinian enterprises are now covered in posters that say, “Dear Barack Obama: Don’t Bring Your Smart Phone to Ramallah. You won’t have mobile access to the Internet. We have no 3G in Palestine!”
“When me and my friends heard that Obama was coming, we wanted to do something creative,” Alawneh Mahir, one of the three activists behind the signs, told me. “We remembered a speech he made that he would never leave without his Blackberry, so we decided to make the posters about 3G Internet and link them to Palestine.”
A Palestinian woman walks past posters showing US President Barack Obama in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 12, 2013. (Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP)
Palestinians are denied 3G communications technology because they compete with Israeli companies, but Mahir tells me that the posters are about more than just 3G Internet.
“It is about showing Barack Obama all of the things that most people take for granted that you are not allowed to do when you live in Palestine.”
“Coexistence has to go beyond the swimming pool..."
--Moshe Vaknin, one of the parents being sued by the Education Ministry for sending their children to an Arab-Jewish first grade class that the ministry refuses to approve.
- Police to restrict Muslims' entrance to Temple Mount - Information about plans to cause disruptions after Friday prayers lead police to restrict entrance to Jerusalem site to men over 50 and women. (Ynet)
- Settlers chase Palestinians off farmland near Hebron - Israeli settlers from Ma’on settlement near Yatta south of Hebron on Thursday vandalized summer crops in fields belonging to Palestinian farmers from Yatta. (Maan)
- Settlers steal IDF tent erected to prevent Palestinian encampment - The canvas has been returned but remaining pieces have not; sources at the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar say incident merely a juvenile prank. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- 'I don’t want their money. I want to walk again' - A 24-year-old man who was paralyzed when Israeli tanks shelled a mourning tent says his claim for compensation, dismissed by an Israeli court, was his last hope. "I collapsed when I was told that my case has been dismissed," Arafat Dayem said. (Maan)
- Co-existence or a crime? Jewish-Arab education earns parents a court date - Parents at Ein Bustan, a Waldorf school in the lower Galilee where first and second grade classes don't yet have Education Ministry approval, are summoned to court for breaking the Compulsory Education Law, which requires students to be enrolled in an accredited school. (Haaretz+)
- U.S. official: 'Israel must show Arab public it's serious about peace' - In press briefing ahead of U.S. President Obama's visit to Israel, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says trip is not about 'closing the deal' but about cooperation on day-to-day basis. (Ynet)
“The 2013 election will be remembered as a day on which an entire sector [of society], traditional and religious, was boycotted solely for its beliefs and perceptions,” Eli Yishai, the co-leader of the Sephardic haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Shas political party, wrote on his Facebook page Saturday night. “[I]t’s much more disturbing that this reality was not created by disagreements,” Yishai continued, “it was created for one simple reason: to see the haredim out, no matter what. Anyone who claims otherwise is not telling the truth and is dismissive of the entire public's intelligence.”
Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images
A senior Zionist Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Haim Druckman, reacted to Yishai’s Facebook post with incredulity, telling the settler-run Zionist Orthodox website Arutz Sheva that haredim had spent decades boycotting the Zionist Orthodox. Haredi newspapers refuse to refer to Zionist Orthodox rabbis as rabbis, Druckman noted, pointing out that the great Zionist Orthodox rabbis’ Torah books are not found in haredi yeshivas. “Those who are virtuoso full-time boycotters should not talk about boycotts,” Druckman said.
Despite Druckman’s inescapable logic, Yishai’s anger has been both echoed and presaged by haredi political leaders from the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism party and from Shas. The parties’ senior rabbis have, if anything, been harsher than Yishai. For all of these haredi leaders, the “boycott” of the haredi parties is based on unprovoked hatred and is by definition evil. But is it?
Speaking in his uniform, Israel's top military intelligence official broke down his agency's assessments of threats facing the country without the passionate flair of many speakers here at Herzliya, Israel's leading security conference. His remarks that Hezbollah has 50,000 fighters in Syria and that Bashar Assad's regime is prepping its chemical weapons made most of the headlines. But Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi also delivered a sober assessment of Iran's nuclear program. His frankness aligned him, at times, with some of his political bosses' rhetoric, but he nonetheless emphasized things that Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli hawks tend to gloss over.
Kochavi said Iran's leaders were holding off on handing down the decision to construct a weapon. "Iran's nuclear plan is progressing," he told a rapt audience, but added, "Iran is being careful not to cross any red lines." That view tracks with one expressed by Netanyahu recently at AIPAC, and leads inexorably to the conclusion that—contra Netanyahu's sometime view of a "messianic apocalyptic cult"—Iran leaders are rational actors. "The main goal that animates any action [by the Iranian leadership] is that they want to keep ruling," Kochavi said.
Uriel Sinai / Getty Images
He was no fool: Iran—with its place in the region's "radical axis" and support for terror groups—definitely poses a threat; that's why Kochavi spent so much time on it. But neither was this soldier subject to the flourishes that pervade many Israelis' discussions of Iran; his wasn't a description of fundamentalists hell-bent on destroying Israel with a nuclear weapon at all costs, but one that balanced precisely those costs as it pursued nuclear advances. Surely referring to intercepts from inside Iran, Kochavi explained: "In simple words, we are starting to hear people saying that perhaps it is time to rethink [our] strategy"—he was clear that he meant this chatter had been picked up from the regime, though not Iran's Supreme Leader itself.
What's causing this consternation in Iran? "Sanctions affect Iran in a most meaningful way," Kochavi said. "All of these [sanctions] create heavy pressure on the Iranian regime and the Iranian citizen." (The Financial Times recently reported that sanctions may hurt ordinary Iranians more than regime big-wigs.) Kochavi went on: "The weight of sanctions is going to become a more important factor in decision-making, although it hasn't yet caused a change in the nuclear program." Kochavi, who said Iran doesn't take the threat of a military strike seriously, sees some hope for Iranian concessions, but noted that the Islamic Republic would never fully give up its nuclear program—something hawks like Netanyahu have demanded. This much seems clear: Kochavi's hope that a program of pressure can yield sanctions should be the international community's focus, not Netanyahu's constant predictions that such a project has all but failed. One outlook gives us options; the other only leads to war.
Last week I raised concerns about Dennis Ross’s new 14-point peace plan, which would gut the very notion of the two-state solution. Ross’s approach is the most prominent manifestation of a growing trend toward the acceptance of a seductive new logic that has emerged in the context of the current Israeli-Palestinian deadlock. According to this line of thought, breaking the deadlock requires an approach that falls comfortably within Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pro-“Greater Israel” political comfort zone, but that can somehow still be marketed as “pro-peace.” A common element in all such approaches is the call to end 45 years of international consensus opposing the Israel settlement enterprise in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, legitimizing most existing settlement construction and green-lighting most new construction. The dangerous appeal of this trend is driven home by the latest offering from peace pioneer Yossi Beilin. Beilin’s commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace is unchallengeable, and, yet, his article raises the same red flags as Ross’s proposal.
The E1 project at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, near east Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (Ariel Schalit / AP Photo)
Ross's plan, it should be recalled, hinges on his argument that Israel should be permitted to expand settlements without restraint within the route of Israel's West Bank separation barrier. In effect, he is arguing in favor of the de facto Israeli annexation of around 10 percent of the West Bank, rendering impossible the emergence of a viable, maximally contiguous Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, and taking off the table the possibility of one-to-one land swaps. This, he suggests, will somehow strengthen the credibility of the two-state solution.
Beilin, for his part, offers ten “considerations,” centered on his suggestion that it is time to forget about achieving a peace agreement and focus on implementation of the 2003 Roadmap for Middle East Peace. Specifically, Beilin believes that implementation of Phase 2 of the Roadmap would enable the parties to leapfrog negotiating disagreements—like the fundamental disagreement over parameters of a future peace agreement, including whether the 1967 lines will be the basis of permanent status borders—and permit the establishment of a Palestinian state within provisional borders.
I think it's odd that we should still be arguing the rights and wrongs of "Zionism" nearly 65 years after Israel's birth. But since anti-Zionists insist, we Zionists should oblige them. Happily, some of their critiques are polite and rational. For example, Joseph Levine wrote this for the New York Times Opinionator; Mira Sucharov responded to Levine's civilized philosophical critique of Israel's "right to exist" at Open Zion. And Jerry Haber wrote this, also at Open Zion; like Levine, Haber is an academic philosopher and critic of Zionism.
Perhaps the most potent rebuttal to both writers is that Zionism is analogous to affirmative action for a historically oppressed minority group which has all too often suffered grievously for not having a state specially dedicated to their interests. That was Arthur Hertzberg's liberal defense of Zionism, which I recall him making personally at the Socialist Scholars Conference in 1992 or ’93. Of course, this does not mean that non-Jewish minorities should be subject to unfair treatment undermining their civil or human rights.
Jack Guez / AFP-Getty Images
Jerry Haber (according to his personal website, not his real name, but "the nom de plume of an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the U.S.") is too clever by half. For example, I'm sure that Peter Beinart doesn't in principle reject a peace agreement with Syria that would involve a return of the Golan Heights to a future peaceful Syrian regime. And I'd agree with Beinart that as a practical measure, a peace agreement with the Palestinians would be facilitated by a land swap permitting a majority of Jewish settlers to remain under Israeli sovereignty within new borders that create a Palestinian state.
After nearly six weeks of poker-like negotiations, Israel seems to have a government. It contains Likud-Beiteinu (an electoral alliance of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu), Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, Jewish Home, and Yesh Atid (Kadima was left out). At 68 MKs, it’s not the most stable. It’s also noteworthy that it took so long, and the gaps were so difficult to narrow. I’d argue this is a sign that the coalition embedded too many contradictions into its foundation. These will make it hard for the government to last its full term.
Still, it is remarkable in a number of ways because of the changes it will make and because it’s a real test for new leaders Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.
Israeli politician Yair Lapid (L), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the Israeli hardline national religious party the Jewish Home during a reception marking the opening of the 19th Knesset (Israeli parliament) on February 5, 2013 in Jerusalem. (Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)
For the first time since Ariel Sharon’s 2003 to 2005 government, no haredi party (Shas or United Torah Judaism) was part of the initial formation of the government. In addition, while Jewish Home falls into the cluster of religious parties (entrenching Judaic norms in the polity are one of its goals), it has other political, economic, and social concerns at this point. This government is, therefore, the most centrist-secular since Menachem Begin’s first government (1977 to 1981).
This will have a severe impact on the religious parties, particularly their political power. (Amir Mizroch called it “a battle of historic significance.”) Their communities are about to face a major drop in resources at the same time there are concerted effort to drag them more directly under state control—in everything from supervision of education, to personal status issues, to service in the military or some other national institution. Their communal independence from yet financial dependence on the state will be brought more into balance.
"He even lit a candle in the main menorah of the community last Hannukah."
--Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, in a piece for Yedioth about the new Pope.
- East Jerusalem building plans delayed over Obama visit - In an effort to avoid potential embarrassment during U.S. president's visit Prime Minister's Office orders Jerusalem's municipality to postpone hearings on construction of 50 new housing units in Har Homa neighborhood, infrastructure upgrade in E1 area. (Israel Hayom)
- Palestinian Authority officials lower expectations of Obama visit - Palestinians say U.S. administration reps told them president was coming just 'to listen'; Abbas visits Putin Thursday, not coincidentally. (Haaretz+)
- New Israeli organization aims to be first right-wing Palestinian rights watchdog - Ex-PMO staffer Yoaz Hendel establishes BlueWhite Human Rights, which aims to monitor violation of Palestinians' rights at West Bank checkpoints, collate testimonies of apparent war crimes by IDF soldiers, as well as provide medical assistance to Palestinians and African asylum-seekers. (Haaretz+)
- "Bus driver attacked me from dark racist motives" - (Palestinian) Ayman Hamed, who carries a work permit from Israel, says an Israeli bus driver refused to allow him to enter the bus, cursed him and others and literally "kicked him off the bus." Hamed filed a complaint with the police, but they closed case saying "the circumstances do not warrant an investigation or trial." Hamed is suing. (Israel Hayom, p. 21)
- Demand: Put filmmakers of "5 Broken Cameras" on trial - The forum 'Consensus - Soldiers in support of soldiers' turned to Attorney General requesting the filmmakers of (the Oscar-nominated) film be tried for incitement against IDF soldiers and commanders, partly because they exposed soldiers' faces in the film. (Israel Hayom, p. 19)
- Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli calls for Pollard's release - Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Israel, supermodel Bar Refaeli and actors Zion Baruch, Eli Yatzpan and Shlomo Vishinsky join more than 155,000 Israelis who have signed a petition supporting the release of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. (Israel Hayom)
David Brooks has found religion. As we might expect of him, he found it in a fancy supermarket, a grocery store for Orthodox Jews that "looks like a really nice Whole Foods." Call it Congregation Boutique Emunah.
In his spot on The New York Times op-ed page, Brooks last week recounted his tour of the all-kosher Pomegranate market in Brooklyn, with its awesome wood floors and awe-inspiring inventory: dairy-free cheese puffs to eat with meat meals, wasabi herring, sponges that don't hold water so that you can use them on Shabbat without violating the halakhic prohibition against squeezing out water on that day.
I deliberately do not say that Brooks found God in the supermarket. He does mention God twice in passing, but he devotes much more loving attention to shopping. For Brooks, you are what you buy. Orthodox Jews "go shopping like the rest of us, but their shopping is minutely governed by an external moral order," he writes, in a half-admiring, half-anthropological tone. Like other folks, observant Jews buy disposable tablecloths, he discovers, but the tablecloths are pre-cut for Shabbat use. Unlike "those of us in secular America," he says, Orthodox Jews are not trapped in empty individualism. They have the best of all worlds.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather on May 20, 2012 in New York City. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
As an observant Jew, I admit to feeling one moment of identification with this description, just before wanting to grab Brooks by the lapels and shake vigorously. On visits to America, when I step into a normal, non-Pomegranate supermarket and look for food with the tiny coded markings of kashrut, I am in fact particularly aware that I answer to a higher authority. (At home in Jerusalem, where no grocery has wooden floors but virtually everything on the shelves is kosher, this particular religious experience is more rare.)
And then I realize that Brooks is describing the transformation of observant Jews into an updated version of his bobos, the bourgeois bohemians who still feel that they are part of a 1960s-vintage rebellion against capitalist society because they buy exotic expensive coffee beans in small specialty shops. In the guise of celebrating the spiritual discipline of Orthodox Judaism, Brooks is happily warbling about the domestication of another defiant counterculture into a marketing demographic.
President Obama will arrive in Israel next Wednesday, only to have to leave again on Friday. In that rather slim stretch of time, he will (among other things): attend formal receptions; lay wreathes at graves; discuss Syria, Iran, and negotiations with the Palestinians; venture into the Palestinian Authority to meet with President Abbas and visit the Church of the Nativity; tour an exhibit of Israeli technological innovations, a model of ancient Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (all blessedly at the same museum); visit a battery of the U.S.-funded Iron Dome anti-missile system; and give a public speech (per Ynet, “the Americans have requested the presence of at least 1,000 Israelis”).
Other than the big speech and Iron Dome review, this is—in essence and particulars—the Standard Trip. It’s the same trip taken by virtually every foreign dignitary to ever land at Ben Gurion Airport, a trip designed to make powerful people feel that they’ve been seen, and regular people feel that their culture has been respected. Alas, the Standard Trip has nearly nothing to do with the lives of actual Palestinians or Israelis.
President Barack Obama arrives to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington, Sunday, May 22, 2011. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
I’m painfully aware that there’s nothing to be done about this. Diplomatic protocol, time constraints, and security concerns are such that, indeed, the Standard Trip tends to steer well clear of actual lives.
But in my ideal world, Obama would pull up a chair at Jerusalem’s Misedet Ima (“Mom’s Restaurant”), order the best kubeh soup he’s ever likely to encounter (I personally prefer the kubeh matfunyah, but the kubeh khamustah is delightful as well), and just talk with folks.
Matthew Kalman broke the story of physicist Stephen Hawking’s boycott of Israel. Then Cambridge University tried to falsely deny it.