Arianna Huffington arrived in Tel Aviv today on her most recent visit to Israel.
The founder of the Huffington Post quickly turned a day of meetings with Israeli hi-tech geeks, venture capitalists and politicians into a comprehensive blog, cutting through the jet lag to distill the essence of a dinner meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak:
During dinner, Barak’s security detail stood guard around the table, guns at the ready and on full display. One of the guards stood directly behind the Defense Minister. Even though he was stationary, his eyes—and, it seemed, his brain—were in constant motion. He was an adrenaline rush come to life. In comparison, the Secret Service detail that guards the U.S. president seems positively laid back.
During his time as Prime Minister, Barak ended Israel’s military occupation of southern Lebanon, and was part of the failed Camp David summit with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat. Given this, I asked him to compare George W. Bush’s leadership to Obama’s when it comes to Israel. “I’m an ABB,” he said. “Anyone But Bush. Obama is investing a lot of his political capitol in the peace process, and it’s important that we don’t waste this moment.”
And what would it take to break through the current stalemate? “The Palestinian Authority,” he told me, “needs to accept becoming an independent Palestinian state even before the borders are finalized.”
Huffington spent most of her day touring Israel’s burgeoning hi-tech incubators, chaperoned by Yossi Vardi, the venture capital muscle behind the creation of Instant Messaging. I can’t help think Huffington, who has leashed (or unleashed) cutting edge technology to journalism and news delivery over at HuffPo, couldn’t help but be impressed by the energy and vitality of Israel’s hi-tech entrepreneurs. So enamored are Israelis of their hi-tech sector, the Israeli version of Entourage, called Mesudarim,features young hot shot tech geeks, not actors.
And how smart is it to show the editor of HuffPo, a bulwark of American liberalism, to an Israel that is multi-dimensional, cutting edge, complex and vibrant—what better way to counter the growing stereotype of Israel-the-Bully that has gained more and more credibility on the Left?
Tomorrow Arianna meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Stay tuned.