'Rock Star' Barack Obama Wins Over Young Israelis With Call for Peace

Standing Ovations Greet 'Empathy' Speech — Leaders Yawn

Rock Star: Israelis were bowled over by Barack Obama’s speech, which included impromptu off-the-cuff pleas for a new generation to push for peace. Leaders on both sides of the Green Line were less impressed.
getty images
Rock Star: Israelis were bowled over by Barack Obama’s speech, which included impromptu off-the-cuff pleas for a new generation to push for peace. Leaders on both sides of the Green Line were less impressed.

By Reuters

Published March 21, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

President Barack Obama was given a rapturous reception by Israeli students on Thursday as he made a rousing call for peace with the Palestinians, but his lofty oratory got lower marks beyond the conference hall.

Urging the younger generation to push politicians for change, Obama said a concerted effort must be made to secure an independent Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

The youthful audience repeatedly interrupted Obama with loud applause, holding up their cell phones to film his performance and giving him a standing ovation after a lone heckler was whisked away by security staff.

“He is a president who is also a rockstar. It’s amazing. He knows how to touch the hearts of the people,” said Gur Wallner, 25, a media student from the southern Israeli town of Sapir.

Israeli and Palestinian political leaders, however, were significantly less enthusiastic about his speech, which was billed as the highlight of Obama’s three-day visit.

“A Palestinian state is not the right way forward,” said Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, who was recently appointed industry and trade minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new centre-right coalition.

Bennett dismissed Obama’s call for an end to the occupation of territory seized in the 1967 Middle East war, suggesting the land belonged to Israel.

“There is no such thing as a nation being an occupier in its own land,” Bennett said in a comment pasted on Facebook.

A short distance away in the occupied West Bank, few Palestinians appeared to believe that Obama’s appeal would bring swift results and expressed disappointment that Washington did not appear ready to apply effective pressure on Israel.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.