The International Convention Center, where Obama will address Israeli students later this afternoon, is a fortress. Not even highly decorated police officers are allowed to enter the building without a blue wristband. Outside the building, thousands of students and hundreds of reporters are waiting in the hot Jerusalem sun for security checks.
“To be honest, I don’t expect that anything important will be said,” says Bnei Zion resident Dan Offer, 24, who studies neurosciences at the Hebrew University. “I’m just here to hear him because he’s a great orator. But I have absolutely no expectations that anything will change on the geopolitical level.”
Pninit, 24, studies at Haifa University and says she’s “pretty excited” about the speech she is about to witness, but truth be told, she does not know what to expect. “Maybe he’ll talk about why he came and what he wants for the future,” she says. Perhaps he’ll call on Israel to adapt the 2002 Saudi peace plan.
M., 22, a Haredi Jew who studies Torah in a yeshiva in the mornings and psychology and philosophy at the Open University in the afternoons, is keen on hearing what the leader of the free world has to say. “It will certainly be a historic speech. He’s a fascinating person and it will be very interesting to hear him speak.”
Will Obama try to pressure Israel to make painful concessions to restart the peace process? M., who lives in Netanya, is not sure. “He will certainly have some kind of message to the Israeli people. He didn’t come here for nothing. But if he’ll want to put pressure on us because of the Palestinians, he’ll do it elegantly and with lots of grace.”