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?
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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.
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According to Yemini, leaders of the centrist Yesh Atid, Tzipi Livni and the center-left Labor Party could take Obama’s balancing act and “with tiny adjustments could turn the speech in to their own platform.”

Elazar Stern, Knesset member for the Tzipi Livni Party, shares this optimism, saying that Obama “moved many” to be able to believe in the two-state solution. “For me, there’s no doubt that within a few weeks you will see a new confidence in the public for promoting the peace process,” he said.

Pollster Camil Fuchs, a Tel Aviv University professor, believes that Obama set the stage for Lapid to become the key force for peace inside the coalition. He approached this aim from two directions: the first was to start to drum up support for peace and prepare the Israeli public for a U.S.-backed peace initiative; the second was to show Lapid that clearing the path for such a plan in government is good for his political career.

Obama cultivated a relationship with Lapid during his visit, paying him special attention and telling him he wants to talk further. For Lapid, who was desperate to become Foreign Minister and received the Finance Minister portfolio instead, a relationship with Obama is a free pass to building his status domestically.

“If Lapid is going to feel that it will increase his popularity he’s going to do it,” said Fuchs.

The Labor party’s secretary-general, Knesset member Hilik Bar, was less hopeful. He said that the speech will give “some push to awaken the sleeping peace camp” and “start once again a small conversation on peace.” But he cautioned, “Netanyahu is surrounded by ultra right-wingers, so declarations are one thing; but I’m not optimistic that it will bring any action by Netanyahu and the coalition.”


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