Boker tov from Israel! Unless you’re been living under a rock or in Yerucham, President Barack Obama is in Israel. If you missed the fun yesterday, you can catch up on my Facebook page. I’m going to experiment today by updating here throughout the day. We’ll see what happens.
One more thing before we move to today: I was honored and privileged yesterday to have been invited to a private meeting with Obama and President Shimon Peres. I only managed to get a single picture but it’s a good one.
“UNBREAKABLE ALLIANCE HOUSE PARTY!”
Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Updates taken from Times of Israel’s live blog.
AFTER HEARING OBAMA’S SPEECH, THE LIVE BLOG IS NOW CLOSED. TIME TO TAKE A BREAK, HOPE YOU ENJOYED.
4:34 PM Out on the streets of Ramallah, meantime, reporter Elhanan Miller runs into anti-Obama demonstrators, one of whom tells him: “Obama is worse than Bush because he knows better. He knows what American money for Iron Dome does. He knows what E1 means. He’s not an ignoramus like George Bush.” That doesn’t need my editing, folks. HAAAAAAA!!!!!!!
4:21 PM During Obama’s visit to Ramallah, Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe delivered a letter on behalf of the families of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. In the letter, the families asked Obama to push Israel to release the prisoners, and in particular Samer Isawwi, released as part of the Gilad Shalit swap deal in 2011, only to be rearrested seven months ago. You know what they say about mail delivery: “through rain, sleet, snow, or terror.”
4:10 PM In Tehran, Supreme leader Ali Khamenei has just threatened to destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa if Israel dares to attack his country. “We can send a monkey into space. We are capable of anything.”
“Sometimes the leaders of the Zionist regime threaten us,” he continues, in a speech broadcast live on TV. “They should know”, says Khamenei, “that if they attack us, we will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa into wastelands. Or to use a term more familiar to them, into New Jersey.”
Meanwhile, back at home, Channel 2 is claiming that the president is rehearsing his speech before delivery at the International Conference Center shortly. He’s having his aides heckle him as he runs through the text, with calls like “Release Pollard” and “Pelephone sucks”.
3:37 PM The rockets fired from Gaza this morning are a signal from Hamas that “nothing will happen without us,” Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel writes. They couldn’t have just sent a telegram?
3:09 PM The International Convention Center, where Obama will address Israeli students later this afternoon, is a fortress. Not even highly decorated police officers are allowed to enter the building without a blue wristband. Red wristbands on the other hand get the lucky recipients a backstage pass to smoke a bowl with Trey Anastasio. Outside the building, thousands of students and hundreds of reporters are waiting in line to be groped at the entrance. And also to be checked by security.
“I’m quite excited to hear what he has to say,” says Jerusalem resident Uri Bar-Lev. “This is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Also, I figure I can meet some slutty American chicks studying abroad.”
3:02 PM Having finished his visit to Ramallah, Obama is back in Jerusalem — meeting with consular staff at the US consulate in the south Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona. The event is hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, and is closed to press which means Obama can finally make fun of Bibi’s hair without anyone being able to report it.
2:59 PM Obama fills out his March Madness bracket. His pick? Indiana Hoosiers. His dark horse? The Bat Yam Arsim. He has the Haifa Fighting Manyaks exiting in the Sweet Sixteen.
2:23 PM Obama’s next scheduled public activity is the major speech of his visit, set for 4:40 p.m. in front of a diverse crowd of Israelis at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center. It was considered that he might take public transportation directly to Binyanei Hauma until his scheduler realized that species evolve faster than the light rail moves.
Dov Weissglass, Ariel Sharon’s former top adviser, tells Channel 2 that while Netanyahu declared his support for a two-state solution loud and clear yesterday, the facts on the ground point in the opposite direction, and within 20 years it will be too late. Palestinian statehood would require Israel to relinquish most of the territories, Weissglass says, and Netanyahu either doesn’t want to do that, can’t do that, “or maybe both.” He then adds that Netanyahu is a raging douchebag.
2:13 PM Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti says the current Israeli government is the “most racist and most extreme in the history of Israel.” He then admits that the current Palestinian government is no more racist than usual. (Important editorial note: I’m having a bit of fun here. Unfortunately, our government has its own share of racists.)
2:06 PM Abbas says the world recognizes that Israeli settlements are illegal. Many Palestinians, he says, see settlements across the West Bank and “do not trust the two-state solution anymore.” Young people conclude that an agreement is no longer possible. (Old people on the other hand conclude that an agreement was never possible.)
But the Palestinian leadership does support that solution, on the 1967 lines, he says.
If Israel makes peace with the Palestinians, he says, it will have peace with the whole Arab and Islamic world. And if I grow a pair of jugs, I will streak across Teddy Stadium naked. (Ok, ok, I’m not that pessimistic.)
1:56 PM In what marks his most significant comment so far, Obama suggests Palestinians cannot expect to have Israelis agree to their conditions before talks start. “Jesus Christ, have you ever shopped at the shuk? Since when have you gotten an Israeli to agree with anything on the first request?”
1:50 PM “There was a time when my daughters could not expect to have the same opportunities in their own country as someone else’s daughters,” Obama says. He says young Palestinians and Israelis remind him of his daughters. Especially when Malia drops rockets on Sasha’s head.
“Hey, look at me!!!”
12:59 PM Israel’s most prominent Arab affairs analyst, Ehud Yaari, makes his personal view of how to best manage the conflict with the Palestinians unusually clear on Channel 2′s ongoing experts panel. He says “yiyeh b’seder” forty-seven times in a ninety second span, followed by “staaaaaaaaaam.”
Yaari then presents an interim deal which would see Israel pull out of most of the West Bank, ending the occupation and returning Israelis to fighting one another.
12:12 PM Ahead of the Abbas-Obama joint press conference, Hamas in Gaza head Ismail Haniyeh gives the American president a vote of no confidence. No word as to whether this vote was registered democratically.
12:05 PM Footage from Ramallah shows Abbas presenting the US President with a drawing of his face alongside that of Abraham Lincoln. Obama then handed Abbas a picture of Yasser Arafat alongside a steaming pile of cow shit.
11:58 AM Among the many items President Obama will take home with him from the Holy Land will be this chocolate sculpture, a recreation of a famous image from the president’s 2008 campaign. Created by a group of 16 students in a confectionary sculpture course at the Holon Institute of Technology, the edible creation is to be presented to Obama later today in Jerusalem. A reporter inadvertently sees Obama text Michelle and ask her if he can slip her some of his dark chocolate.
11:36 AM A leaked draft of talking points Mahmoud Abbas intends to bring up with US President Barack Obama includes support for a secret freeze on settlements, the New York Times reports. While Abbas screams curse words in Arabic, Palestinian Prime Minster Fayyad runs out of the room to update FailBlog on his cell phone.
They also include pleas for Benjamin Netanyahu to commit to the 1967 lines as a starting point in peace talks and a suggestion by Abbas that he will dissolve the PA if progress is not made. It is expected that Bibi will make this concession in exchange for the Palestinians relinquishing their claim to Rechavia ice cream.
11:28 AM While Obama and Abbas talk, Israeli politicians and analysts are weighing in.
Nabil Sha’ath, the former PA foreign minister and negotiator, is speaking of this as “a decisive year” for the Palestinians, Channel 2 says. “We hope to take our rejectionism to unprecedented heights in 2013.”
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) recalls that Abbas left the last attempt at peace talks, in September 2010, “after minutes.” To be fair, he had just eaten an undercooked burger from Wolfnight’s.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) says the rocket fire from Gaza this morning was a message to Obama and Abbas from Hamas: “You can talk… but we don’t want peace.” At least they’re honest.
11:11 AM The president has touched down in Ramallah, where he’s greeted by Abbas.
Anthems are played. The two inspect an honor guard, fairly briefly. Obama is introduced to PA officials, including Salam Fayyad who mumbles under his breath, “Nobody appreciates a *&$#% thing I do.”
Abbas is introduced to Obama’s delegation, including Kerry. Channel 10′s Emanuel Rosen says Kerry is “dead serious” about making progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front, and that “everyone is saying they haven’t felt anything like this for years.” The Palestinian and Israeli reporters try to stifle their laughter while the respective governments celebrate for finding a mutual area of agreement.
Rosen said earlier that Netanyahu might be prepared to sanction an unannounced settlement freeze — just to quietly halt settlement expansion — to enable a new attempt at negotiation. Somewhere, Naftali Bennett’s head just exploded.
Obama and Abbas have now begun their direct talks.
11:00 AM As Obama lands in Ramallah, the city’s central Al-Manara square has filled with 200-300 angry protesters demonstrating against the US president’s visit. Many protesters are holding up signs calling for Palestinian prisoners to be released, including Fathiya Ajaji, whose son Ahmed is in jail in the US for involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. “He didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. Upon reading this in the news, Jewish mothers around the world immediately nod understandingly.
Most of the parties represented at the rally are leftist Palestinian factions. The right-wing factions are busy filming the upcoming sequel to “Tomorrow’s Pioneers”, “Farfur Takes Manhattan (then Jerusalem, then Tel Aviv, then….)”
10:56 AM Photo released of me asking Obama about his day at a press conference.
10:47 AM The president is now on his way to Ramallah for talks with Mahmoud Abbas. “Don’t eat too much in Ramallah,” Peres urged him just now at the Israel Museum. As in, save some room for the state dinner tonight. Reports indicate that this morning’s rockets were launched in response to rumors that Sara Netanyahu will be wearing her black lace to the dinner.
10:28 AM The president is shown the Robo-Waiter, developed by three junior high students from Haifa. The small humanoid robot has arms and an extension to grab items, and is equipped with sensors, cameras and software that allows it to “hear” commands. Unlike live Israeli waiters, the Robo-Waiter is able to bring water upon request in under ten hours.
Obama and Netanyahu are served matza by the robot before moving on. “That’s good matza,” Obama tells the trio. Due to lack of time, the Shabak is unable to give the president a polygraph test.
10:24 AM The president is shown ReWalk, an exoskeleton suit with motorized legs that can be used by paraplegics to walk, climb stairs, run and move around. Obama hugs a women wearing a sample exoskeleton after she explains how participating in a pilot program has changed her life. Unfortunately he crushes her spinal cord beyond repair.
10:13 AM Israel Radio reports that last night Palestinians burned United States flags that were hung from electric poles ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to the town on Friday. Obama is scheduled to visit to the Church of the Nativity that is the legendary birthplace of Jesus. Later, he is scheduled to visit Kiryat Motzkin, the non-legendary birthplace of Jesus.
10:11 AM The tour continues with a display from Brain Network Technology’s program, developed in conjunction with Ben Gurion University of the Negev, which allows noninvasive monitoring of brain functionality. Obama reveals that the technology was tested on Sarah Palin. Studies were inconclusive.
9:58 AM The tour moves on to a special showcase for Israeli high-tech innovation, set up on the Israel Museum grounds. Obama says he’s read about the next display, the Technion’s Robotic Snake, which can can survey disaster areas that humans or conventional robots are unable to access. Obama: “The last time I heard about a robotic snake, it was in an erroneous private message from Congressman Anthony Weiner.”
9:52 AM Renowned cantor Dudu Fisher serenades Obama with “Oseh Shalom” on the way out of the Shrine of the Book. After the press leaves the room, he rips his shirt off and sings a rock version of “Sweet Home Chicago” while swinging from the chandelier.
9:41 AM The IDF is not expected to fire back on Gaza in response to this morning’s rockets on the south during Obama’s visit, Haaretz reports, citing unnamed senior diplomatic officials. “The Israeli response will come at the right time and place,” one source is quoted as saying. “Especially when Bibi’s approval rating is sagging.”
9:39 AM Obama and Israel Museum director James Snyder are discussing how remarkable it is that the Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved in such good condition. Obama says that Americans also have well-preserved antiquities such as the Declaration of Independence and Barbara Bush. (Dick Clark, rest in peace.)
9:22 AM Obama arrives to the Israel Museum and will be shown a scroll of the Book of Isaiah but won’t be allowed to touch it. The last time he heard that, he was in a co-ed’s dorm room at Columbia.
9:15 AM “Obama should come and see how we live here,” says Sara Hazizu. Why would he want to do a thing like that? He lives in the White House. That woman is delusional.
Security sources in Jerusalem agree that the rocket fire was “a message timed for Obama’s visit to show they’re still there”. With all the Israeli moving companies, why are they still there? Moshe’s Movers, send in ten of your workers at 3 AM, pack a few trucks, and ship their furniture to Des Moines.
9:11 AM Times of Israel: Hundreds of people line the streets in Jerusalem to watch Obama’s motorcade go by on the way to the museum, and traffic jams are being reported all over the capital because of the disruptions. This is in contrast to the traffic jams on all other days which occur for no good reason whatsoever.
8:51 AM The Times of Israel: Sderot Mayor David Buskilla called the rockets a message to Obama from Gaza. I’m guessing that the message wasn’t that the Democrats have their vote in the 2014 elections.
8:27 AM “WTF, Gaza? When my advisors told me that rockets had landed, I thought they were talking about the NBA team.”
8:16 AM “Seriously with the vegetables?! Get me some sausage or you can forget about red lines.”
Front desk: “Mr. President, how did you sleep?”
BHO: “Was there a war around 4:30 AM?”
Front desk: “Yes, the garbage trucks. Those wake us up as well.”