I'm sure that, by now, everyone has heard that our president has recently had a lot to say about Israel. Last Thursday he gave a substantial policy address and he spoke on Sunday the AIPAC conference.
Although many people heard the speech, what he actually meant by his words is the topic of fierce debate. Presidential speeches, like tractates of Talmud are studied zealously. We look for nuances and shifts. We try to hear both what was said and what WASN'T said so as to try to understand the impact of any policy changes or additions.
Depending on whom one listens to, President Obama is either an friend of Israel, a naïve idealist, or a sworn enemy who has been drinking State Department "Arabist Kool-Aid" (to quote a recent OpEd piece by right-wing commentator, Cal Thomas).
The fact that the President referred to the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations was troubling for some. For others, the fact that he omitted any references to the Palestinian demand for a law of return was worrisome.
Although I was unable to attend the AIPAC policy Conference this year, I did follow the president's speech to the plenary as it was broadcast online.. I also followed many of the comments posted by people who were "live blogging" it on Twitter and Facebook. It was fascinating to see how so many people, hearing the exact same words, had such different interpretations.
On Tuesday, May 31 from 7:00- 8:30 pm I will be sitting on a panel discussing the following topic: "Israel and Obama's Vision For The Middle East." The program will be sponsored by "Stand With Us Israel" and will take place at the Hebrew Educational Alliance (3600 S Ivanhoe). I will be joined by Professor Shaul Gabbay, Rabbi Bruce Dollin, Rabbi Selwyn Franklin and Rabbi Richard Rheins.
Even the title of the forum can be understood in multiple ways. For example, does the word "and" imply that Israel and President Obama share the same vision, or does it mean that they differ?
In preparation for my remarks, I would love to hear your thoughts on the following:
- President Obama's Speech and subsequent need to clarify his remarks at the AIPAC conference
- The state of your own personal relationship with Israel;
- Do you feel that Obama is a friend of Israel?
- Are his policies and pronouncements radically different than those of previous administrations?
- What are the effectiveness of our governmental policies (or lack thereof…) vis-à-vis Israel
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
P.S. – for more information about the community forum on 5/31, contact firstname.lastname@example.org