Jewish Journal


March 20, 2013

Obama’s visit to Israel: a new kind of hope



A new approach to peacemaking? Obama. Photo by Baz Ratner/REUTERS.

Earlier today, President Barak Obama landed in Israel, for the first time since he first got elected in 2008, and for the third time in general. He is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah. The main goal of this visit is to "check the burning territory," and to see if there's a way to rush the peace process, that seemed to have gotten a bit into tan endless vertigo.

But other than that, there is something else Obama is planning to do: he will speak in Jerusalem to an audience mainly of Israeli students. According to reports in Israeli newspapers, Obama was offered to make a speech in front of politicians, but said he'd rather meet with the young Israeli public. This, to me, was a shift of opinion.

I am a big fan of the American culture and way of life, and really believe in the American formula to success in everything. However, I always had a slight problem with the American intervention. I always believed (and still do,) that the only ones who can solve the problems and the conflicts are we, the people from the inside, belonging to both sides, for we are the ones with the best understanding of the reality we live in. I believe that there is no good in judging a situation far from you. Just like I can't tell you what is best for the States, I believe that you can't really know what is best for Israel, unless you've been here, and got to really know the surface.

Moreover, I believe that what we hear from politicians while afar is as close to reality as an article coming from the foreign press. I don't believe that our politicians really represent us, and that a conversation with the people is the only way to know what the majority of people really think. That is why I believe that while Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas are the ones who actually need to shake hands, it is we, the people, who can make peace happen. That is why Obama's announcement about speaking to Israeli students completely changes my opinion on his visit.

No doubt that this visit is important. I never had a doubt that the Leader of the Free World must visit his allies personally, especially this very close, very tight partner in business and in commitment to security. This partner is the only Democracy in the Middle East, which means this partner has a lot of responsibility in maintaining stability in the area. But this obligation to visit Israel was all I saw in this visit.

I saw no meaning in sentences such as "sitting with both leaders", "trying to solve the problems," and by "no meaning" I don't mean "no intention," but "no actual chance for results." The attempt to get both Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas to talk, again, was not something I thought could lead anywhere, that is hadn't already led to. After all, when it comes to talking to both leaders, there is nothing new under the sun- it is something Obama is doing on a weekly basis, and not much would change if he would actually be present in person.

The difference was made with the announcement on the speech in front of the students. That announcement turned Obama's visit to a meaningful one.  This request to speak to the people was the proof I needed to know that Obama might actually want this peace to happen, and is willing to put a true effort into turning the dream into a reality. This announcement showed me that, like me, Obama believes that peace is in OUR hands, the people. It showed me that he truly wishes to get a better understanding of life here, not from the mouths of politicians, but from the people who live this conflicted reality every day. I sure hope that he will meet with Palestinian students as well, one way or another, so that he would be able to see the whole picture before sitting down with both leaders to what might become a different, more optimistic, peace talk.

Obama's visit might mark the beginning of a new era. I don't know him very well, and I don't have any special feelings or opinions of him, but his intention of meeting students, and not politicians, gives me hope. May tomorrow bring with it a new dawn.

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