'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!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • 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.