Hopeful reading: Obama will go over Israeli leaders’ heads to youth and say regime must change

on 37 Comments

The White House is promoting the Obama trip to Israel with the video, above, which Adam calls “Ben Rhodes with Edward R Murrow microphone.” Rhodes, 35, the deputy national security adviser, would seem to be the guiding spirit of the trip. After he briefed the press last week, he promptly got star treatment in the Times, which noted that Rhodes had convinced Obama to ditch Mubarak two years ago.

Rashid Khalidi called that profile “wonderful” with irony, on an IMEU call this afternoon: “I seriously doubt that these people have a clue about what the Palestinian people go through,” he said. And another friend says that as Obama’s speechwriter on the trip, Rhodes will be channeling the prophets: “Prepare for an ecstasy of pandering on this historic visit. Obama is trusting Creative Writer Benjamin Rhodes (Master of Fine Arts, NYU) to break on through to the other side, but the competition is a serious challenge: Amos, Hosea and Ecclesiastes.”

I am trying to have a hopeful reading of the trip, and going over Rhodes’s conference call of last week (covered by Alex at the time), here’s my offering: The Obama administration fully understands that Israel’s regime is unsustainable, it has no faith in its leaders, and while it will pay homage to those officials, it is sending its form of a sharp signal by keeping Obama away from the Knesset and having him instead speak to Israeli youth.

“This really is the true purpose of the visit,” Rhodes says in the above video– to have a “very direct conversation” with young people.  Read: Obama will go over the heads of the Israeli leaders to the young people, and tell them that their only future in the region is by making peace with Palestinians and building bridges with their neighbors.

Some selections from that White House call that support my reading follow (yes, leaving aside all the claptrap about the ancient homeland, the three wreaths, and Yad Vashem and the technological miracle, and leaving aside the grotesque parallel of the Israeli people and the Palestinian Authority).

Going over the leaders’ heads. Rhodes:

This is an opportunity for the President to speak directly to the Israeli people… [H]e is particularly looking forward to the opportunity to spend some time with the people of Israel and to tell them directly about what guides his approach to this relationship…

Here Rhodes recognizes that the Arab Spring is coming to Israel and Palestine, too:

the President has said, is that Israel, as it makes peace, is going to have to recognize the broader role of public opinion in peacemaking.  In the past, the peace processes with a variety of countries and partners in the region were between Israel and individual leaders.  And as you move towards more democratic, more representative and responsive governments, Israel needs to take into account the changing dynamic and the need to reach out to public opinion across the region as it seeks to make progress on issues like Israeli-Palestinian peace and broader Arab-Israeli peace…

Screw the Knesset; the emphasis is on the young:

What we told the Israeli government is that the President was very interested in speaking to the Israeli people, and that, in particular, he wanted to speak to young people.  We obviously have a deep respect for the Knesset as the seat of Israeli democracy, and in the past, the President, again, has made clear the very significant attachment that we place on the fact that both Israel and the United States are democracy.  But you also know that the President, around the world, has often spoken to young people.  He spoke to young people, for instance, when he traveled to Cairo.  And in this instance, we felt like bringing together an audience of university students from a broad range of partners that our embassy has in Israel would allow him to speak, again, not just to political leadership, who he’ll be meeting with on the trip, but to the Israeli public and Israeli young people.

So as we put together the schedule, what you see is a significant amount of time that the President will be spending with Israel’s political leadership, a significant amount of time that he’ll be investing in some very iconic cultural sites with the Israeli people.  But the speech is a moment where he’ll be in a room with the Israeli public, and that really was our priority as we thought through what would make the best venue for the speech.

Obama will try and infuse these young people with hope, but in a distinctly regional context:

part of the reason to move forward in the pursuit of peace is to signal to the people of the region a seriousness and a common sense of purpose so that the issue does not just continue to be a divisive one in the region, but rather people can have a sense of hope in Israel and in the Arab world that peace is possible.  So that’s the type of dynamic we want to support, one in which people have a sense of possibility rather than a sense that this is going to be a continued source of division.

More suggestions that Obama will tell the young people that they are part of the region, and that awareness is the only path to “true security.”

given this is his first trip to Israel as President, we thought that it was very important for him to speak directly to Israelis about the nature of the friendship between the United States and Israel, and the challenges that we’re faced with and, frankly, to lift up these issues, and look on the horizon a bit, too, because at any given time there are issues that we’re working very hard with the Israelis — regional security and counterterrorism, Iran, Syria — and the President will address all those issues in his speech.  But I think he’ll also talk about where we’re trying to go together, what does true security mean for Israel, what is the goal of the United States and Israel in terms of bringing about prosperity and a lasting peace and security for our two countries. And again, there’s no substitute for being able to do that in Israel as the American President.  As Dan said, it’s unique for an American President to go to Israel.

By the way, it turns out the New York Times is just as curious as I am about the composition of the ruling class:

The son of a conservative-leaning Episcopalian father from Texas and a more liberal Jewish mother from New York, Mr. Rhodes grew up in a home where even sports loyalties were divided: he and his mother are ardent Mets fans; his father and his older brother, David, root for the Yankees.

“No one in that house agreed on anything,” said David Rhodes, who is now the president of CBS News.

Intermarriage and empowerment– the modern Jewish American story.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

37 Responses

  1. Egbert
    March 18, 2013, 2:16 pm

    That’s a disturbing graphic. I thought it was a representation of ‘Greater Israel’ until I read the caption.

    • Krauss
      March 18, 2013, 4:46 pm

      Heh, similar.

      Also, Phil, I wish you’re right but you’re wrong. The “speak to the people” is Obama’s hail mary pass at trying to shake the last dying gasps of liberalism from a population that boosted Yair Lapid, a man who launched his ‘diplomatic’ efforts from Ariel (the settlement deep in the West Bank).

      And that’s the ‘center’. The minister responsible for housing will be a settler.
      This is the government the Israeli people elected. Obama knows it’s finished. He’s looking only at the history books now. The leaders will never do anything. So he wants to go down as the President who “warned the Israelis before it was too late”.

      But Obama will wash it all off his hands. Whenever someone will ask him post-Presidency what about the I/P conflict he’ll say, you know I tried in my first term. That went to hell(read: I needed those donations from Jews in Long Island!), so I went to Israel and talked directly to the people.

      Then add a bunch of bromides about how it’s “all up to the people”, but Obama has given up. He doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s a photo-op trip.
      Obama, ever conscious of his place in history, is more concerned with how things will be written about than solving the conflict. In less than 2 years he’ll be a lame duck anyway.

      Maybe he’ll launch something the last year in his presidency like Bush to give the illusion of a peace process but 2016 won’t be 2007/2008. Things have progressed too far by then. Which Obama is cynically aware of.

      • seafoid
        March 18, 2013, 5:08 pm

        Assuming he was interested- which I don’t think he is- he doesn’t care about US grunts who lost their manhood to Afghan IEDs- he still wouldn’t have the political capital in DC.

        So he just goes with the flow. Maybe he reckons it’s too late anyway.

  2. James Canning
    March 18, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Yes, intermarriage and empowerment – – the modern Jewish American story. Bravo.

  3. MRW
    March 18, 2013, 2:51 pm

    Obama not addressing the Knesset is great.

    It undercuts Netanyahu’s sniggly appearance before Congress. N’yahu appeared here as the leader of his government. Even though Obama is also the leader of our government, he is also Head of State, which Netanyahu is not. That distinction is lost on ordinary Americans, who don’t have a clue what that means, but it sure as hell is not in the diplomatic world and among educated and sophisticated Europeans. So for Obama to act as Head of State [let’s see how much airtime is given to Obama meeting with Peres; note “state dinner”] he underscores that he does not consider Netanyahu his equal. Remember, Obama did the full court press for the Queen (Head of State as she did in return treating him according to the proper protocol), not Canadian PM Harper. Does anyone know if he’s going to take Michelle?

    • Citizen
      March 18, 2013, 10:38 pm

      Maybe the distinct possibility of Obama getting heckled in the knesset was a factor nobody ignored during the negotiations for the trip agenda.

      • MRW
        March 19, 2013, 7:14 am

        That wouldn’t wash on a state visit, Citizen. That would absolutely not play well here, no matter what the party. Heckle the President after we let the Israeli PM have a gracious access to our Congress? I don’t think so. I don’t give a damn how many Obama haters there are. You don’t diss the US Prez overseas. And besides, as Forbes Magazine reported this past week, Obama is the most popular Prez overseas in decades, irrespective of his popularity here.

        Nah, this was international diplomacy at work. How many people do you know who are aware that the Prez is the head of the govt and the state? If it’s one, I’d be surprised.

      • sardelapasti
        March 20, 2013, 12:18 pm

        MRW – “You don’t diss the US Prez overseas”

        The Zionists can do anything with a guarantee of always getting away with it in the US. Anything. A lot has to change first.

      • amigo
        March 19, 2013, 8:12 am

        Citizen “Maybe the distinct possibility of Obama getting heckled in the knesset was a factor nobody ignored during the negotiations for the trip agenda.”

        Should,ve let it happen.Allowing Americans to see their leader being insulted by those who get 3 +Billion Dollars of American taxpayer money each year.

        It just might change a few minds in the USA.

  4. seafoid
    March 18, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Obama could start with régime change in dc .

    • kalithea
      March 19, 2013, 1:53 am

      But don’t you know Americans like to “fix” everyone else’s house so they can ignore their own dilapidated one? It makes them feel better about themselves.

  5. American
    March 18, 2013, 2:55 pm

    I think I’ll wait and let others comment on the new Jewish ruling class…lol

    Meanwhile…..I don’t believe Obama’s “community organizing” in Israel is the answer to I/P-USA-Isr.
    Kindergarten diplomacy ..rotflmao!….that is soooooo pitiful.

  6. Dan Crowther
    March 18, 2013, 3:01 pm

    You’re out of your tree, Weiss. I don’t knock you for it, it’s good to be hopeful.

    • Frankie P
      March 18, 2013, 6:59 pm

      I was scrolling through the comments, hoping that I’d see one from Dan Crowther. I was not disappointed. Dan, are you becoming a realist? Two points about Phil Weiss and his Mondohope. First, the youth of Israel are not some subjugated base of liberalism that has been hidden under a blanket by their fascist elders. The youth in Israel are as fascist, if not moreso, than the older generation. They have been carefully trained to be so. Second, Obama has proven unable to make real contact with the youth in his own country, a youth that is slowly but surely trending towards ideals of small government libertarianism as they see their future prospects destroyed by big government and bigger debt.

      I put forward a motion to change the name of the site: Mondohope (less).

      • kalithea
        March 18, 2013, 8:53 pm


      • seafoid
        March 19, 2013, 1:58 am

        The kids are more obnoxious than their parents due to the vagaries of the birth rate.

      • Dan Crowther
        March 20, 2013, 11:52 am

        I’m no “realist” Frankie as I don’t agree with the underlying values of “realists,” namely that the US is right to be the dominate power in the world. I hardly share a world view with guys like Larry Wilkerson and Zbig, even though I may share some of their criticisms of the last decade or so.

        As for American youth trending toward “libertarianism,” I would agree, although I would say they’re trending more towards classical, enlightenment “libertarianism” rather than the vulgar, perverse, American version. Much more of a communal libertarianism I would say.

  7. American
    March 18, 2013, 3:32 pm

    The more I think about this community youth organizing solution for Israel the funnier it becomes.
    We all know the solution to Israel lies in the US, but Obama is scared to take that on…the machine moves right on. Take names, maybe when the dust settles we can round them up and send them to their just rewards.

    Israeli to do list for Americans for 2013.

    1) Don’t cut Israel aid, cut Americans instead.
    2) Make Israel a Special Ally by law.
    3)Give cash we don’t have to Syrian rebels.
    4)Bomb Syria.
    5)Bomb Iran.


    Israel to ask Obama to use air strikes in case of Syrian missile transfer
    US expected to resist Israeli pressure to attack Iran, while Tel Aviv unlikely to yield on Palestine, leaving Syria a common goal


    U.S. House Democrat wants cash and lethal aid for Syria rebels
    March 17, 2013 7:11 PM ET
    By Patricia Zengerle

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee is pushing President Barack Obama’s administration to train and arm some Syrian rebels, in addition to providing humanitarian assistance.
    Representative Eliot Engel will introduce a bill on Monday that would authorize Washington to provide assistance “including limited lethal equipment” to carefully vetted members of the Syrian opposition, aides and activists aware of Engel’s plans said on Sunday.
    Washington has pledged non-lethal aid to Syria’s rebels, but Obama has so far refused to give them arms, arguing that it is difficult to prevent the weapons from falling into the hands of militants who could use them against Western targets’

    Clean Break marches on….Iraq, Syria, Iran.

  8. Keith
    March 18, 2013, 3:36 pm

    PHIL- “Intermarriage and empowerment– the modern Jewish American story.”

    My, what an interesting comment.

  9. Parity
    March 18, 2013, 3:40 pm

    “What we told the Israeli government is that the President [Peres] was very interested in speaking to the Israeli people, and that, in particular, he wanted to speak to young people. ”

    Surely the word in brackets is supposed to be Obama, not Peres.

  10. ToivoS
    March 18, 2013, 5:58 pm

    Through out this report, in both the quotes and Phil’s reporting, Obama hopes to directly address the “people” or the “young people”. In context it sounded like a message to Israeli Jews. Are Palestinians still excluded from being included among the “people”?

    If by “young people” they are talking about Israeli Jews then it sounds like they have not been following the polls, the chants at Lieberman rallies or soccer matches lately. The current crop of Israeli youth are even more racist than their parents. Trying to convince them is the ultimate fools errand.

    However, there is one potential positive outcome of this effort — it might finally convince the Palestinian moderates that the US is not their friend. That will be an important step that might unify the Palestinians into a coherent movement that would have a chance at reversing the apartheid solution.

    • Donald
      March 18, 2013, 6:27 pm

      “If by “young people” they are talking about Israeli Jews then it sounds like they have not been following the polls, the chants at Lieberman rallies or soccer matches lately. The current crop of Israeli youth are even more racist than their parents. Trying to convince them is the ultimate fools errand.”

      I was about to say that. I’m no expert on the polling, but we’ve all seen the stories about the things you reference. If Obama hopes to appeal to Israeli youth, he’s unlikely to succeed. (Though maybe he still believes in his magical ability to transcend partisan divisions.)

  11. flyod
    March 18, 2013, 6:39 pm

    phil wake up. you are dreaming again. rhodes is an interventionist (libya/ syria) who is following “clean break” to a tee. let’s not forget dennis ross was raised in a mixed household – jewish mother, catholic step father. my take is rhodes is the new ross in charge of steering the whitehouse on the same old israel -centric mideast policy. as far as obama goes, this trip is only about reassuring the american people that israel is our steadfast ally. there will be no deviation from the scipt.

  12. W.Jones
    March 18, 2013, 10:11 pm

    I am confused: what does it mean when it says:

    Obama is trusting Creative Writer Benjamin Rhodes (Master of Fine Arts, NYU) to break on through to the other side, but the competition is a serious challenge: Amos, Hosea and Ecclesiastes.”

    Who is “the other side” that Obama is breaking through to? Israeli youth whom he would be persuading to try to seek peace and to respect Palestinians?
    And how is Hosea the “competition?” After all, isn’t a big part of Hosea a criticism of Israel, with another part being the idea that the society’s cohesion and stability depends on its loyalty to God, rightness, and morality? Palestinians as I understand it respect Hosea and draw conclusions from him that differ from the actions of the state that controls them.

    Isn’t one of the lessons from Hosea that the northern tribes would be dispersed and yet could return to God at a later time? And yet those northern tribes today are members of the surrounding Arab-speaking peoples. Shouldn’t therefore a belief in Hosea’s message mean an increased respect and brotherly feeling towards those people?


    • kalithea
      March 19, 2013, 1:44 am

      I believe what he, Khalidi means, not IT means, when he says, not IT says these words, is: why should Rhodes who will only be channelling the prophets break through when the words of the prophets themselves failed to get through to ZIONISTS?

      But I really suspect you understood it as such as you really have no problem expressing yourself.

      “Shouldn’t therefore a belief in Hosea’s message mean an increased respect and brotherly feeling towards those people?”

      Ya thiiiink? I’m assuming “those people” are the Palestinians by the way.

      But answer me this: since when are Zionists into “brotherly feeling” when they created their own religion called Zionism?

      Ergo, Khalidi’s well-placed skepticism.

      • W.Jones
        March 19, 2013, 9:40 pm


        Who is IT?

        OK I see what you mean. Rhodes’ competition to get through to the youth is Hosea in that they are trying to get the same message and are competing with eachother to do so.

        I did not think it meant that, but thought it meant that they were competitors in the sense of presenting competing, opposing messages: Rhodes presenting liberal views and Hosea presenting tribal views. If that is what the author had meant, I could have replied that Hosea did focus on the tribe, but that Hosea’s motivational value was rightness rather than ethnicity.

        You asked: I’m assuming “those people” are the Palestinians by the way.
        Not only Palestinians, but other nations like Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, and Kurds, into whom the “Lost Tribes” would have been dissipated.

  13. W.Jones
    March 18, 2013, 10:15 pm

    Well, Obama is a good motivational speaker, particularly with young people, so I allow that he could have some success in this regard.


    • kalithea
      March 19, 2013, 1:23 am

      Obama’s setting a really “good” example by spending so much time begging for love in Israel; while he spends a disproportionately relative 3 minutes with the Palestinians. That’s real “motivational” strategy for fomenting peace, because we all know peace is based on disregard, disrespect and diminishing the importance of the other party required to build it.

      Oh, and get back to me on the success of his “motivational impact”. I’ll be waiting…and waiting…

      • W.Jones
        March 20, 2013, 2:08 pm


        Since he did not have the Knesset or invite Ariel’s settlers, I thought he might be aiming to have a speech that was going to ask them to look for peace. But now I am skeptical about that “hopeful reading”, because those two things by themselves do not mean he will. And although a good speaker, he does pander to the audience I think, rather than motivate and persuade them to significantly different POVs. Most importantly one can look at the speeches he made at AIPAC. Plus he’s the first US president to lay a wreath for Herzl. (would there be a “balancing” wreath for an anti-Zionist leader too????)

        So I don’t have a strong expectation about what he will say, but imagine it will be more like what he said on the tarmac.

    • MK_Ultra
      March 19, 2013, 1:07 pm

      Actually, his speech writer is the good motivational speaker. Obama doesn’t dare say a word outside that which has been scripted for him. He’s no Bush the Bumbling Idiot, he knows better.

  14. Citizen
    March 18, 2013, 10:49 pm

    I think the trip is all about big zionist dollars in next Democratic bid to gain control of house like they have the senate. Near the end of his last term Obama may just–make another Cairo Speech for the record, as he proceeds to depart the oval office.

    • MRW
      March 19, 2013, 7:20 am

      Citizen, it’s probably Obama Presidential Library in Chicago dough. (I’m cynical.)

  15. kalithea
    March 18, 2013, 11:47 pm

    First, a major reality check is required. Earth calling Mondo: How quickly you forget what Israeli youth are all about.:


    Fforward to present: Obama Side Show Takes Israel: After he dutifully kisses the Zionist ring; Obama ego gets much-needed stroking with wide audience, he shakes hands in line, poses for the photo-op, and pads his hollow legacy. This pretender-in-chief is so starved for attention ’cause no one with half a brain takes him seriously anymore so he’s due for making one of those soaring speeches that cause the heavens to open up while rosy-cheeked cherubim flutter down playing tiny golden harps and place a crown on his head.

    I’m kinda hoping the Zionist youth ditch their atypical self-restraint, show their true colors and teach Obama the lesson he deserves to learn. That’s the best possible outcome; but it’s just my wishful thinking. Instead, I suspect they’ll be on their best behavior, the better to fool their American benefactors and the world. I doubt they’ll bite the hand that feeds them the 3 Billion welfare cheque.

    Obama will then sway and convert these budding “impressionable” Zionists and they’ll pour out into the streets chanting: We heart Hussein Obama and the long-suffering Palestinians!

    SNAP OUT OF IT! Alas, this will be but another exercise in Obama platitudes and narcissism this time before a bunch of arrogant, entitled Zionist youth who care squat about the Palestinians that suffer daily abuse next door! At least he’ll be in like-minded company!

  16. sardelapasti
    March 19, 2013, 5:12 am

    Phil, who owns Obama? When has there been anything done that was even a single micron outside the traced line?
    Of course he won’t talk at the Kenesseth, choke full of homicidal crazies who sincerely believe the dope they’re selling. At the very least he’d get the booing of the century. Gives bad ratings.

  17. MK_Ultra
    March 19, 2013, 1:04 pm

    How can these people take themselves seriously? It must be awful hard for them to look at themselves in the mirror and not see what everyone else sees.

Leave a Reply