The Nation has been carrying out an interesting project, asking journalists based in all the countries in Barack Obama’s current tour to send in reports about how he is received in each locale. This was my take. My original title was “Yes he can – in Israel too.” But being editors (I know the type, being one myself), they changed the title to fit their format and the series. By the way, when I wrote this, I didn’t know that Obama had also managed to meet with Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father.– Hillel Schenker
“Obama in Israel: One Tough Audience”
…. Israel is one of the few countries in the world where George W. Bush would still win over 50 percent in the public opinion polls. So there is no yearning for change in the American leadership, as there is among many Americans, and with most of the people around the world.
Israeli leaders have their own tzures (problems, in Yiddish). Prime Minister Olmert is competing with Bush in America when it comes to plummeting in the polls, and the latest news about investigations into his behavior, together with the latest tractor-terror attack in Jerusalem, pushed Obama onto the side columns of the day of his visit.
A few hours before his arrival on Tuesday evening, the song they were singing in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv (where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated fourteen years ago) was not Yes We Can, but Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree. The occasion was the ending of the three-year regular army service of Gilad Shalit’s military pals. The buddies of the young corporal with the intellectual, very non-macho appearance who was captured in an across the border raid by Hamas militants two years ago, convened together with his father, Noam, (who sounds like he’s a supporter of the left-wing Meretz party) in the square which has hosted hundreds of thousands of Peace Now demonstrators, to lobby for government action to ensure Gilad’s release in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
This is a clear reflection of the fact that Senator John McCain’s story-narrative as a combat officer who was a prisoner of war resonates much more easily with Israelis than Obama’s extraordinary story-narrative, which includes such exotic and unfamiliar stations as Hawaii, Africa, Indonesia, Harvard and the streets of Chicago.
And yet, there has been a tremendous amount of curiosity in Israel about Obama…. Click to read Hillel’s entire piece online.