Will Barack Obama's Speech Inspire a Generation of Israelis To Seek Peace?

Center May Run With Issue, But Bibi's Not Likely To Budge

Barack Obama put the issue of peace talks with the Palestinians squarely back on the Israeli agenda. Will the momentum keep moving or fizzle against the opposition of the right wing?
getty images
Barack Obama put the issue of peace talks with the Palestinians squarely back on the Israeli agenda. Will the momentum keep moving or fizzle against the opposition of the right wing?

By Nathan Jeffay

Published March 25, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Will the young Israelis that President Obama aimed his Jerusalem speech at become the “Obama generation,” in the same way that the youngsters who mourned Yitzhak Rabin after his 1995 assasination, became known forever as the “candle generation”?

President Barack Obama’s March 21 address was an impassioned appeal to Israelis, especially the young, over the heads of their leaders, to insist on pushing for peace with the Palestinians. Declaring in Hebrew “you are not alone,” he hoped to inspire a generation to look beyond its own sense of victimization and give it the confidence to insist on its government making peace with the Palestinians.

After an election season in Israel characterized by a conspicuous absence of the Palestinian issue from the discourse, Obama succeeded in forcing it back on the public agenda. His speech supplanted even Passover preparations as a favorite conversation topic among Israelis in the hours and days that followed.

Many Israelis were enthralled by President Obama’s soaring oratory. Can it translate into political action?
getty images
Many Israelis were enthralled by President Obama’s soaring oratory. Can it translate into political action?

“It’s good that he spoke to the young and I think that from the people in Israel peace will come and not from the Prime Minister, and I think we need to continue in the direction that he outlined,” said Liran Tetro, a 30-year-old from Or Akiva, the morning after the speech. “He doesn’t need to ignore Bibi, but more to inspire and wake up the people, which is what he did.”

Tal Harris, 29, who works on college campuses trying to drum up support for a two-state solution, said that the speech is exactly what he has needed for years.

“What’s been missing for the last four years is trust between Israelis and the American president,” commented Harris, executive director in Israel for the OneVoice movement. “Even though he paid for a lot of our security it was cold money, in a way. But now he has made a connection with the public.”

Indeed, early polling seem to suggest that a change has taken place. A Channel 2 poll, found that 39% of Israelis said their opinion of him had improved as a result of his visit, and he had only gone down in the estimation of 2%. The poll failed to record people’s actual opinion of him, only looking at how views had changed.


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!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • 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.