Israel has the highest poverty rate in the developed world. Some 21% of Israelis were poor as of 2010, more than in any of the other 33 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, its new report reveals.
Compare this figure with where Israel stood in 2000 and the picture is stark — back then the poverty figure was 15%.
The question is, where does Israel go from here/ Israel’s cabinet has just passed an austerity budget that curs spending across government ministries, and will eat away at some important welfare payments.
Israel was delighted back in 2011 when it was admitted to the OECD. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that it was a “seal of approval” for Israel’s economy. But what of the critique that the kudos came with?
“Countries get the poverty rate they are prepared to pay for,” Angel Gurría, OECD secretary-general, said at a roundtable with Israel’s then-finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, just over two years ago. “If Israel is to cut poverty and reduce inequality, it will have to not only shift the composition of social spending, toward more cost-effective benefits, but also increase its investment in this area.”
Have poverty figures dropped since Israel joined the OECD? The new figures don’t tell us, but given that changes in policy to decrease inequality have been minimal, it looks unlikely. And with the austerity budget about to pass, gaps looks set to widen.
One of the new budget’s clauses is a cut in child allowances — payments that the Knesset Research and Information Center has just reported represent a staggering 28% of the income of Israel’s poorest decile.
Three years in to Israel’s membership of the OECD one can’t help but feel that it has taken the prestige of OECD membership and run with it, the country hasn’t done so much listening and learning.
British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking waded into the Israel debate last week by announcing his decision to boycott an academic conference. Eli Valley, the Forward’s artist in residence, offers his own unique graphic take on the controversy.
Got wheels, Mr. Hawking?
Israelis are about to be taxed to death — literally.
Israelis are furious at the austerity budget, and thousands took to the streets last night to demonstrate.
You may have read about the planned spending cuts or the planned tax increases, but you probably haven’t heard about the cemeteries plan.
The government wants to impose property taxes on graves. According to the plan, grave owners will be liable for the tax while they are living, which if they bought young and go on to live a long life would end up costing far more than the value of the plot itself.
Once people are interred their families will be expected to pick up the cost. It is unclear how long the liability will continue, and whether it will be applies on existing graves.
Property taxes in Israel are paid to the local municipality, and help to meet the cost of a range of services that — at least according to information currently available to us — are enjoyed exclusively by the living, such as parks, cultural services, refuse collection etc.
The new plan raises an intriguing possibility. Over the years many Diaspora Jews have chosen to be buried in Israel for what they perceive as its spiritual value. Could we start to see some casket traffic in the other direction — Israelis going to be buried in the Diaspora to avoid an eternal tax burden?
Are the days numbered for second-class citizenship for women in Israel?
Following two announcements in two days, it seems the exclusion of women from Israel’s public sphere may finally be nearing an end. The Attorney General Wednesday recommended criminalizing behavior that stops women from receiving “public services with equal conditions.” And today, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that she is starting work on the legislation.
Israeli politicians should write Haredim who demand segregated buses a letter of thanks. They have provided them with the ultimate fits-every-occasion always-grabs-a-headline cause for whenever they need a bit of love from liberals or for when news is quiet. Women’s exclusion was never a popular story until it became about the ever catchy “back of the bus” and there is a seemingly endless supply of political points for anyone who condemns them.
But in the past we have seen the issue of gender exclusion disappear from the headlines as suddenly as they appeared. At the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 gender segregation and women’s exclusion topped Israel’s national agenda. “They will be huge issues in the next general election,” went the common prediction. Yet soon after the international community finished its New Year vacation and news picked up again, it became yesterday’s story.
Now, once again, the “back of the bus” story has been wheeled out. The changes being promised are important and welcome. The subject is better for the government than having people talking about Syria or Prisoner X.
But will it survive the next big new story or will it just fade away? Only time will tell.
The company made waves this week when it changed the geographic tagline for the Palestinian version of its search engine, Google.ps, to read “Palestine” instead of “Palestinian Territories,” Foreign Policy reported.
“We’re changing the name ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’ across our products,” Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said in a statement to the BBC. “We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries.”
“In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, Icann [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], ISO [International Organisation for Standardisation] and other international organisations.”
In November, the U.N. General Assembly voted to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a non-member state.
Dr. Sabri Saidam, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the BBC that the Palestinian Authority had asked Google and other international companies to use the term “Palestine” instead of “Palestinian Territories” after the U.N. vote.
“Most of the traffic that happens now happens in the virtual world and this means putting Palestine on the virtual map as well as on the geographic maps,” he said.
It comes as no surprise that Israeli officials weren’t pleased.
“Google is not a political or diplomatic entity, so they can call anything by any name, it has no diplomatic or political significance,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel.
On Twitter, some saw the name change as a significant step:
Google is de facto recognizing a state of Palestine. bit.ly/12wVNC4ampmdash; Cassandra Vinograd (@CassVinograd) May 3, 2013
Others thought the company could have gone further:
And some users who disagree with the tech giant’s decision won’t be Googling anymore:
What do you think about Google’s decision?
Warren Buffett, the famed investment Oracle of Omaha, is in love with the Israeli economy, or at least with one company.
On Wednesday, shortly after announcing his purchase of Israeli cutting tool maker Iscar for $2 billion, a move that would complete his takeover of the company, Buffett sat down with Israeli reporters at the modest corporate headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway investment company in Omaha, Nebraska.
“It’s 2 billion votes of confidence in Iscar and in the Israeli economy, you can’t separate the two,” he told Israeli TV’s Channel 1, “when we put $2 billion into Iscar, we’re putting $2 billion into Israel.”
Buffet made his first investment in Israel exactly seven years ago, buying 80% of the company’s shares for $4 billion. Seven years later, Iscar’s value has doubled in the remaining 20% ownership were sold for $2 billion, reflecting an estimated company value of $10 billion.
In back-to-back interviews with Israeli reporters, days before he holds the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting followed closely by investors across the world, Buffett showered praise over his Israeli partners. Asked what he found most impressive in doing business in Israel, he said: “If I could take our managers from Israel and clone them I would feel very, very good,” he said. “They have brains, they have energy, they’re never satisfied with where they are today, they always think things can get done better and they don’t get discouraged when the world economy slows down, they just try harder.”
Skeptics point out that all that happened yesterday was that Arab leaders acknowledged what everyone already knows — that if and when Israel makes a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, it won’t return exactly to 1967 borders.
This is true. When the Arab League indicated that it is updating its position from its Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, to accept some degree of land swapping so that Israel won’t have to return to 1967 borders, it was really just a matter of its leaders coming closer to earth and recognizing that the Green Line won’t become a border. The Palestinian Authority and the international community have long realized that Israel will cede land in its sovereign borders in return for holding on to parts of the West Bank.
In fact, when the so-called Palestine Papers were leaked in 2011, they showed that the Palestinian Authority had been prepared to deviate significantly from the 1967 lines, at least in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, stating the obvious can be important. The road to peace is obstructed by taboos from both the Israeli and Palestinian side, and the breaking of each and every taboo is an important landmark. Only when key players publicly break a taboo can the discourse start to shift, closer to agreement. The fact that the Arab League has shown willingness to revise its “1967 lines” mantra, and inject some flexibility in to the take-it-or-leave-it Peace Initiative could, if capitalized upon, present an opportunity.
There is still a huge gulf that divides Israel and proponents of the Peace Initiative, with massive differences in important areas. But the latest development updates it from an offer frozen in its time to one that could potentially be revived and form the basis of talks.
One of the most interesting questions is how, if this leads somewhere, will Hamas react. Hamas’ ideology is uncompromising, and doesn’t lend itself to the idea of agreements. However, in the scenario that the Arab world, represented by the Arab League, moves forward, there could be significant pressure on Hamas not to stand in its way. Hamas has kept its reaction to the plan in check in the past, resisting the temptation to vote against it at an Arab League summit in 2007 and instead abstaining.
But there’s another less obvious factor that could prove relevant. It was Qatar that met with John Kerry and announced the openness to land swaps. Hamas is increasingly reliant on Qatar for donations and political credibility. In October the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, visited Gaza - giving the regime kudos by going there and promising $385 million, for building projects. This gives Qatar obvious leverage withHamas.
Yesterday’s development is by no meant a fast-track to a peace agreement, but it could simplify a still-difficult route.
Bah humbug, it’s Lag B’Omer.
I’m usually game for Israel’s national and religious holidays, eating the correct patisserie items on the correct days (honey and cheese cake on Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot respectively), sweating in a succah on Succot, and even finding a certain comfort in the melancholy of the Fast of Av.
But I’m a Lag B’Omer Scrooge.
And here’s why. Every festival has good traditions apart from this one, which has two common customs: lawless scavenging and superstition.
Jewish children across Israel, religious and secular, have filled the skies with smoke with their traditional bonfires. And for the days before Lag B’Omer, one could be forgiven for thinking that there is a temporary suspension of the laws of theft in the State of Israel where wooden items are concerned. If it’s not screwed and bolted down, it’s seen by some as fair game. Well brought up children who would never dream or of taking what isn’t theirs most of the year can be seen gathering up burnable items which aren’t exactly theirs. Damage is wrought in forests; palettes on building sites grow legs.
And many of them light up without the necessary precautions. Several fires have gotten out of hand this year.
Yesterday, Israel’s cabinet passed its first reform of the new Knesset, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced afterwards: “The goal of the reform that we approved today is to lower the prices of flights to and from Israel and to increase incoming tourism… We will continue to advance reforms to lower the cost of living and increase the efficiency of services to Israeli citizens.”
The reform in question was the signing of the so-called Open Skies agreement with the European Union, which will increase competition in flights to and from Europe and, it is expected, bring down the price of flights.
The cabinet’s resolution has prompted a strike by Israel’s three airlines, which has meant that thousands of people scheduled to travel are unable to do so. The strikers, backed by the Israeli trade union movement, say that the agreement will put Israeli carriers at a disadvantage and lead to the loss of Israeli jobs.
There are pros and cons to the Open Skies agreement. But what should be noted is that it is being billed as the first big achievement of the new government in bringing down the cost of living — a priority placed on the political agenda by the social protest movement.
In the summer of 2011, a Facebook campaign protested the high price of cottage cheese in Israel. Within a few weeks thousands of Israelis were in tents and out on the streets protesting the overall cost of living.
And so today, as the social protests become a distant memory that left Israel the legacy of Finance Ministry Yair Lapid who triumphed electorally on the promise of lower living costs, and as the prices in supermarkets, including the price of cottage cheese, creep back up, those Israelis who can afford to fly are promised that the cost of their air travel will drop.
Never mind “let them eat cake.” In Jerusalem they declare “let them eat airline meals.”
As the race to choose the next chief rabbis heats up in Israel, a new lawmaker is proposing appointing a female religious figure to serve alongside them. She says that she will propose legislation to introduce the role.
Aliza Lavie of the centrist Yesh Atid party wrote today that there should be a female in the Chief Rabbinate. Her role would be “to explain to women in particular and to families the way of the Jewish tradition of the generations.”
Lavie is one of the founders of Kolech, the Religious Women’s Forum in Israel, and an active Orthodox feminist. The chances of her proposition coming to fruition is slim, but it will hopefully stimulate discussion on the male-dominated nature of Israel’s religious establishment.
From Tuesday’s Yediot Ahronot, as translated in the emailed Daily News Update of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace comes a fairly detailed description by Alex Fishman of John Kerry’s game plan for restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Fishman is Yediot’s veteran, impeccably well-sourced military affairs correspondent. He attributes this information to State Department sources. It doesn’t appear on line (neither in Hebrew nor English) so I’m posting the Abraham Center’s translation below in full.
In brief, Fishman reports that Kerry is aiming for a 4-way meeting in Amman between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Jordan. (Kerry is very eager to have Jordan step in as a sponsor of peace talks, both to give Abbas some substantive Arab backing and to give King Abdullah II a boost.) You’ll note at once that Abbas is already refusing to attend without a clear gesture from Israel. In the past he’s demanded a full Israeli settlement freeze. Lately he’s begun demanding a map showing Bibi Netanyahu’s notion of a future Palestinian state. As I’ve reported in the past, Abu Mazen has been refusing to talk to Bibi (after willingly talking to Ehud Olmert before him) because his sense is that Bibi has no intention of ever ceding enough land for a real state. The idea of the map is to show that the talks will go somewhere, so Abu Mazen doesn’t enter a dead end and end up looking like a fool.
So if you stop reading after paragraph 2, you get the sense that Kerry’s plan is dead in the water. But Fishman goes on to report that Kerry thinks he can eventually get Bibi to give up some lesser concessions that will satisfy Abu Mazen and get the talks started. The two sides’ notions of final borders are impossibly far apart at this point, but Kerry is aiming for an interim agreement on Israel ceding 80% of the West Bank as a first stage. It’s a long shot, but who knows? So were the 1969 Mets…
The Kerry Plan
By Alex Fishman, Yediot Ahronot, April 9, 2013
The new American secretary of state, John Kerry, is trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to sit down to a four-way meeting in Jordan. The answer he’s received from Abu Mazen, at least for the time being, has been flat out refusal.
Back in 2008, it looked like the living conditions of Holocaust survivors were, at long last, to significantly improve. A state commission of enquiry, headed by retired Judge Dalia Dorner, concluded that there should be major increases in money directed to survivors, and the government agreed.
Five years on, ask most survivors and they’ll tell you that nothing has changed. A survey of survivors by the Tel Aviv-based Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel has just reported that 56% of survivors surveyed take the view that there has been no change in the way the government treats them since the commission of enquiry. It conducted its survey ahead of Yom Hashoah next week.
The Foundation found that some 67% of survivors are dissatisfied with the way the state treats them.
Shockingly, it found that a fifth of Holocaust survivors living in Israel have skipped at least one meal in the last year due to financial worries. One in eight survivors found that in the last year they could not afford all the medicines they needed; that more than half can’t afford all their monthly living costs; that more than one in three faces financial difficulties; and that only 6% say they are free of economic problems.
With a new government in place in Jerusalem, a new Knesset, and lots of new optimistic promises in the Israeli political sphere, these statistics five years after a government actually adopted a state commission of enquiry underscores just how far proposals for change can get without actually being translated in to reality.
Yesh Atid surprised pundits when it came second in the January general election in Israel, despite the fact it was a brand new political party with a leader, Yair Lapid, who had never served in Knesset. But it doesn’t stop there. If a poll released today is right, then Yesh Atid has increased its popularity by almost 50% since the election.
It has 19 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, but if new elections were held now, according to a Knesset Channel survey, it would win 28. And you guessed it — that means that it would be the biggest Knesset party and Yair Lapid would be Prime Minister.
In today’s poll, it looks like Yesh Atid has been winning its newfound support from the right. The religious-Zionist Jewish Home party loses two seats and Likud-Beytenu, which was already miserable at winning only 31 seats in the election, is down to 25.
It would seem that the opinion changes since the election reflect the fact that the coalition negotiations led by Likud-Beytenu’s Benjamin Netanyahu were long and chaotic, and that Lapid came out looking like a winner. After all, he stuck to his insistence that Haredi parties were omitted from the coalition, and that the new government progresses legislation for a draft of Haredi men to the army.
The question now is whether Prime Minister Netanyahu can pull back from the humiliation of the coalition negotiations and regain his political dominance. There are no obvious initiatives on the horizon that will see him woo the public, apart from any flexing of muscles on security matters. But we’re now entering the phase where Lapid’s newness to the political fold may lead to the end of his honeymoon and the start of Bibi’s reassertion of his power. Lapid has just become Finance Minister, a position he didn’t particularly want, and only once his decisions start to filter through and impact of people’s day-to-day lives will we know if he’s built for politics, or whether today’s poll is a case of him peaking early.
A new poll indicates that Barack Obama’s Middle East visit left Israelis less convinced that he is pro-Palestinian.
A survey conducted before the visit found that 36% of Israelis considered the president more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli. This fell a remarkable 20% to 16% in a survey published today. Smith Research conducted both surveys.
Though Israelis now view Obama as less pro-Palestinian, there has been only a tiny increase in those who say that he is more pro-Israeli than pro-Palestinian. Only 27% of respondents took this view, compared to 26% before the visit.
The Jerusalem Post, which commissioned both Smith polls, stated that the new survey shows that Obama made an impression on Israelis but “not the impression he was trying to make.” But one wonders if this is a fair interpretation.
The results were a way of Israeli’s saying that they’re less skeptical and less convinced that Obama is on “the other side” but not yet ready to endorse him, which is only a natural part of the process of warming to him. Or at least, it’s a natural way of them expressing themselves if confronted with this rather odd line of questioning.
Why ask people which “side” Obama is taking, constructing pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli as polar opposites? This makes an assumption that not all Israelis accept, but which all respondents are forced to adhere to. And perhaps in part the fact that the pro-Palestinian figure dropped without any significant increase in the pro-Israeli future points to the problem with this model of questioning.
Strategically sandwiching his public criticism of Israeli policy in the middle of three days committing himself to Jewish history and hopes, President Barack Obama flies out of Ben Gurion airport hoping that Israelis will remember the balance in his visit.
The visit was all about critical mass. He wanted a critical mass of poignant words, actions and visits that would push the buttons of Israelis, in order to make the reprimand for Israeli policy towards Palestinians in his speech yesterday just one part of a bigger picture. The reprimand was essential for his agenda, but for it to be received by mainstream Israel as caring not denigrating, all of the rest of the trip’s content was important. Here’s five things to remember about the historic trip:
Joke’s on Bibi Obama made himself him seem familiar and friendly. Hence his joke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his sons are “very good looking young men who clearly got their looks from their mother.”
It wasn’t very funny – in fact it would’ve been far funnier if he suggested they got their dress sense from their mother – but it sent Israelis the message that Obama isn’t sparring with their Prime Minister, and if Bibi is sharing jokes with him, who are they to be suspicious?
Touch of Hebrew Whether it was Obama speaking in Hebrew on a few occasions, or making reference to the Israeli television satire Eretz Nehederet, it sent the signal out that Obama appreciates their culture and has made some efforts to understand it.
Barack Obama stepped down from the podium a couple hours ago after delivering what my gut tells me was a historic speech.
I have two reasons for thinking this is true, but take these comments as a quick, first reaction.
More than any other American president who has spoken about Israel and the conflict, Obama used a thoroughly Israeli vocabulary. He described how an Israeli perceives the security situation in terms that spoke directly to Israel’s historical memory, siege mentality, and utter fatigue with high-minded talk of peace.
Here’s how he described what it means to be an Israeli:
You live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected the right of your nation to exist, and your grandparents had to risk their lives and all that they had to make a place for themselves in this world.
Your parents lived through war after war to ensure the survival of the Jewish state. Your children grow up knowing that people they’ve never met may hate them because of who they are, in a region that is full of turmoil and changing underneath your feet.
This was the language that hit its mark, the Israeli kishkes, more than the name checks of Sharon, Ben-Gurion, and Rabin, or the tortured attempts to throw out a word in Hebrew here or there.
And it felt like a departure from past rhetoric, which spoke about the necessity for peace without acknowledging why it might be so hard for Israelis to take the concept seriously any more.
Barack Obama had young Israelis eating out of his hand, during his speech in Jerusalem, ticking all the boxes that the audience hoped, and throwing in a few good laughs.
He reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security, spoke of the importance of the missile defense systems in the south to ensure that children can “sleep at night,” gave reassurances on Iran, with “all options” on the table and asserting that it’s “no wonder” that Israelis view it as an existential threat. He echoed Jerusalem’s desire to see Hezbollah labeled internationally as a terrorist organization.
But the unique element of this speech was his raising of the themes he hasn’t discussed at length in front of Netanyahu and Peres. He asked the young Israelis to put themselves in the shoes of Palestinians, and spoke of the difficulties faced by Palestinians, with implied criticism for Israeli policy in the West Bank. He asserted that Israel does have partners for peace at the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. “There’s an opportunity, there is a window,” he said. And most significant of all, he called on the young to be an agent for change, and push their leaders to move forward on the cause of peace. And with this plea, he lived up the expectation that he would, in at least one area, circumvent Israel’s leadership and try over its head to communicate his vision to normal Israelis.
He did it with conviction and grace, even dealing with a heckling situation with wit, and employed Hebrew to tell the audience “atem lo lovad” or you are not alone (real meaning: “don’t listen to all of your government’s panicking as the U.S. won’t let anything happen to Israel).
Obama’s humor was a real hit with the crowd, especially his well-researched gag that reports of discord between him and Netanyahu have been a ploy to generate material for Israel’s most popular satire show, Eretz Nehederet.
Moshe Ya’alon was one of the first ministers that Obama met for more than a handshake and a brief chat, as he was part of the small party that accompanied him to the Iron Dome.
Moments before they viewed the installation, Obama said: “We stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land,” which for him means the two-state solution. “Even as we are clear eyed about the difficulties, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors.”
Well, actually, Ya’alon is pretty clear that he’s lost sight of the kind of vision for peace Obama refers to. He is a left-winger who has taken a sharp turn. As the Forward reported last week, he thinks that the two-state option is a lost cause, and has said that anybody who sees a solution on the horizon is engaging in “self-deception” and promoting a “golden calf.”
And Ya’alon, while often portrayed as restrained on the issue of Iran, has been rather cutting about where Obama stands on the issue in the past. Early last year he claimed that his administration was too cautious over imposing sanctions on Iran because of “election year considerations.” Britain and France, he said, were being very firm on sanctions, but not so America.
“In the United States, the Senate passed a resolution, by a majority of 100-to-one, to impose these sanctions, and in the U.S. administration there is hesitation for fear of oil prices rising this year, out of election-year considerations,” he said. “In that regard, this is certainly a disappointment, for now.”
Ya’alon’s predecessor Ehud Barak signed off settlement building plans, as is required of his office, but wasn’t pro-active in this area, delayed a lot of applications, and evacuated some illegal settler homes. Ya’alon by contrast is enthusiastic about settlements, and sees them growing.
When the last Israeli government, Washington often communicated with Barak out of preference to with Netanyahu, finding his positions, in some respects, close to those of Washington. Obama’s encounter with Ya’alon will have directed his attention on just how different the atmosphere between Washington and this government office is likely to become over the coming months.
Barack Obama’s first engagement today was a visit to the Israel Museum with an agenda that was, as the Forward’s Nathan Guttman has noted, laden with significance. So what did he actually see?
He started in the Shrine of the Book, where he seemed genuinely fascinated by the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many of the documents relate to the particular belief of the strict separatist sect that authored them, but a good number also contain Biblical texts. It is these that Israel was keen for Obama to see, as these ancient manuscripts underscore the connection of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel.
The highlight of the Shrine of the Book visit appeared to be the viewing of the Isaiah Scroll, which was discovered in 1947. Dated to 125 BCE, it is believed to be the oldest manuscript of the Book of Isaiah in existence. The 54 columns contain all 66 chapters of the book, and the Hebrew text mostly matches the one in use today.
Aptly, for Obama’s visit to a troubled region, the manuscript is the oldest rendering of the famous prophecy: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war.”
After viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls, a nod to Ancient Israel, he moved on to an exhibition assembled in his honor of seven blue-and-white technological inventions, a hat tip to modern Israel.
It was like a return from the dead today at Ben Gurion Airport’s Terminal 1. Ever since it was replaced by a newer terminal a decade ago, it has been a graveyard of abandoned conveyor belts, gaps where vending machines used to be, and check-in desks for a couple of budget airlines that can’t afford the main passenger-check facilities. But this morning it leaped back in to life as the HQ for the first part of Barack Obama’s Israel visit.
Press and security officials started arriving at 6am Israel time, ahead of his landing at 12.25 p.m. All 1,000 of them passed through Terminal 1 for repeated security checks, ready to board buses to an especially constructed outdoor stadium next to the landing spot for Air Force One.
In the stadium, as soon as they saw the sun shining staff pulled the rainproof plastic wrapping off the newly laid red carpet. But it’s going to take more than good weather to make this trip a success, given the troubled background between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama and Bibi have met nine times in the past, and it’s never particularly easy, given the very different ideological orientations of the two, personal discord, and deep divisions on the issue of settlements. But this time is even more complicated, given the fact that only on Monday, Bibi inaugurated his new government which is a far from Obamaphile line-up.
As the visit progresses, here at Forward.com we’ll be taking a look at where some members of the new ministerial team stand on the issues that are important to Obama, the first being Israel’s new Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon, who will be accompanying him to see an Iron Dome battery shortly after he lands.
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