BHO gets an OMG
Hebrew media review

BHO gets an OMG

Obama shoots coverage of the Knesset swearing-in and Burgas bombing report off the top of the front pages like a clay pigeon

Obama's first attempt to reach Israel by swimming failed ignominously. In March he will take the plane. (photo credit: Pete Souza/Official White House photo)
Obama's first attempt to reach Israel by swimming failed ignominously. In March he will take the plane. (photo credit: Pete Souza/Official White House photo)

Just when Israeli journalists thought it was safe to write about goings on in their own country.

Dun un dun ah dun un dun ah.

Just when Benjamin Netanyahu thought he could build a coalition with whoever he pleases, thank you very much Mr. Yair “who-died-and-made-you-prime-minister” Lapid.

Dun un dun ah dun un dun ah

Just when 48 brand-spanking-new MKs though they would get their place in the sun at the top of every mother-loving paper in this great land.

Dun un dun ah dun un dun ah.


Yes, it’s true, that Nobel-prize-winning, free-world-ruling, skeet-shooting American president is headed our way, and just in time to knock the swearing-in of a new Knesset, for the first time in nearly four years, off the top of three out of the four major Hebrew papers.

All four agree that he is coming in March, and that he will attempt to restart talks. But why, wonder many of Israel’s quill-pushers, would he schedule a meeting now, just a few weeks after reports leaked out of the White House about Barry Obama not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan Israel, and what does he hope to accomplish by visiting here.

Israel Hayom reports, based on sources close to Obama, that he has said in the last few days he wants to take a central role in restarting peace talks, especially given the recent elections here.

“It seems recent developments, especially the election results in Israel, led the White House to rethink its approach. Many in Washington have expressed satisfaction with the placement of Yair Lapid’s party in the elections and saw an opportunity for a new coalition that can advance the peace process. ”

Eitan Haber writes in Yedioth Ahronoth (the only paper to put Obama below the fold, most likely because it hates liberty and eagles) that Obama is likely not coming with any unrealistic expectations of bringing a golden age of Middle East peace with him on his rainbow-powered Air Force One. But Eitan Haber might also think Obama is God.

“The American president, like every American president, won’t land at Ben-Gurion airport without knowing in advance his closing statement, what he expects to publicize and the more marginal details of the planned trip: With whom will he shake hands? Who will he meet? And mostly who will he be photographed with? No detail is hidden from his eyes. The American president doesn’t suffer surprises.”

Speaking of the Lord, Maariv’s Amnon Lord, no relation, writes that Israelis should make no mistake about the timing of the visit and its announcement, which Netanyahu, who maybe has never heard of email or SMS, used to send some very specific messages.

“The visit, which is supposed to take place right after the government is formed, will contribute to its shaping. The ministers will hardly learn each other’s names before they will have to plan for the new diplomatic agenda written out by the American president. The early message about the visit to potential [coalition] partners: Start to get serious. To Yair Lapid the message is: If you want an invite to the diplomatic party, start to show some flexibility on the ultra-Orthodox draft issue. There are a few other important things that now rise to the top of the agenda. The Americans, and Netanyahu as well it seems, don’t want to get stuck with a right-Haredi government. The visit places the diplomatic process [with the Palestinians] on top of [Israel’s] domestic political agenda, and [Tzipi] Livni’s words yesterday serve as a reminder that Lapid has competition for the left flank of Netanyahu’s government.”

Over in Haaretz land, Chemi Shalev writes that the visit’s timing will work out dandy for Netanyahu, but wonders what’s in it for frenemy Obama: “One of the reasons for the change, according to former US ambassador and current Princeton professor Dan Kurtzer, is the very appointment of Secretary of State John Kerry. The Middle East peace process is ‘a major part’ of Kerry’s agenda, says Kurtzer; Obama’s trip to Israel and the West Bank is aimed at stamping Kerry’s efforts with a presidential seal of approval and removing any doubts about the support he enjoys from the White House.”

M Ma Mah Mahmoud

The seeds of peace could lie with Obama and Kerry, or they could come from those guys who jump out of vans at intersections to do crazy dances. Maariv reports on a strange meeting between followers of the Hasidic Breslov movement and members of the Palestinian Authority that took place on Tuesday in Ramallah, to work out visits to the site revered as Joseph’s Tomb, which sits in the heart of Palestinian Nablus. The Hasidim complain that the Israeli army rarely lets them visit and decided to go around the IDF and set up a meeting with a number of PA bigwigs, including President Mahmoud Abbas (who canceled at the last moment). According to the story, the Palestinians said they had no problem with Breslovers visiting, even during the day (the army only allows middle of the night visits) and even with their Na Na Nachman songs (ok maybe not that).

“We understand that Joseph’s Tomb is a historical site with significance for Jews and we have no problem with people entering the site in accordance with security officials,” Anan Al-Atira, Nablus deputy governor, told Maariv.

Unfortunately, the IDF was not happy about the meet and said any deal that doesn’t involve them is invalid.

With the Obama visit, the Knesset swearing in and all the other coalition bric-a-brac, the third big story of the day, one that would lead the papers any other day of the week, gets relegated to the back pages: Bulgaria’s assignment of blame in the Burgas bombing to Hezbollah, as Israel has surmised all along. Yedioth reports that though the report is great and all, and will hopefully help put the terror group on the EU’s night soil list, the families of the victims want us to remember that no report will bring back their loved ones.

“It won’t help us, since nothing can bring back Maor,” Ruti Harush, mother of 26-year-old Maor Harush, who was killed in the bombing, tells the paper. His father is a bit less morose: “If the EU will recognize Hezbollah as a terror organization, I believe it will be possible to take care of them properly. I would do anything if I knew it could bring back my son, but it’s beyond me.”

Hoping for disaster

Amira Hass uses Haaretz’s op-ed page to tear the West a new one, but for another reason. According to her, Palestinian groups are only able to get aid and international sympathy if they go along with Israel’s “apartheid policies,” which help to fuel the sympathy machine instead of working to stop the abuses.

“Even when these aid teams are highly caring, compassionate and dedicated, the aura of their ordinary, comfortable and healthy world surrounds them, separating them from those for whom catastrophe is routine,” she writes. “The former earn their living from calamity, the latter live it. Even without being cynical, the scenario is cynical by definition.”

Nadav Shragai writes about the other half in Yisrael Hayom, singing the praises of late settler leader Hanan Porat, who he says was able to have an argument without hating the other side:

“Porat knew, for example, who to leverage the disconnect and later the renewed connection of Yitzhak Rabin between the matriarch Rachel and Rachel’s Tomb in order to ensure that it stay under Israeli sovereignty. He knew how to bring together religious and secular, ‘Israelis’ and ‘Jews’ and to create a bridge between them, and never gave up on the common links between all of us, religious, ultra-Orthodox and secular, even when the differences and arguments took over any good. Porat did not blur his worldview, and fought for it vigorously, but he also knew to emphasize unity.”

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