Now that the applause has died down from President Barack Obama’s address to students in Jerusalem, Members of Knesset are coming out with their criticisms, with one lawmaker calling Obama’s speech “offensive to Netanyahu” and another saying it contained “filth.”
That’s no surprise, considering that in his speech, Obama encouraged the Israeli students to push their political leaders to “take risks” for peace. This, even though the Israeli public went to the polls only two months ago to democratically elect their leaders.
Obama said: “And let me say this as a politician — I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks. You must create the change that you want to see. (Applause.) Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”
And he added this: “That’s where peace begins — not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people.”
Member of Knesset Miri Regev of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu party called Obama’s speech “offensive to Netanyahu.”
“I was surprised by his words about a Palestinian state, that he didn’t mention the word ‘Jerusalem’ and that he said, ‘Leaders must bring peace,’ as if Netanyahu doesn’t want peace,” she said.
Regev slammed Obama’s decision to sideline the Knesset in favor of a speech to more left-wing students. She said Obama should not have “gone over their heads.”
“I thought Obama arrived with a greater understanding of the diplomatic process between us and the Palestinians, but I see that he hasn’t changed his stances, not about settlement construction and not about two states for two nations, and decided that the young people must influence their leaders to put public pressure on the government so it will implement [Obama’s] agenda,” Regev said.
Moshe Feiglin, a hawkish Likud lawmaker, said Obama’s speech contained “a lot of filth in the middle.”
Though he praised Obama for acknowledging the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, he suggested Obama’s call for peace was naïve, saying this: “When Obama talked about forcing us to make peace, all I could think about was baby Adele, who was injured by stone-throwing near Ariel last week.”
Three-year-old Adele Biton is now fighting for her life after being critically injured when Palestinians threw rocks at the car carrying her, her sisters and her mother. Police say the rock throwing caused their car to swerve and slam into an oncoming truck.
Her parents are asking the public to pray for Adele, who has already undergone two head surgeries.
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett took Obama to task for criticizing the building of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank and his push for a Palestinian state.
“A Palestinian state is not the right way,” Bennett said. “The time has come for new ideas and creativity to solve the Middle East conflict.”
“Anyway, a nation does not occupy its own land,” he added.
Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party which supports Jews’ choice to live wherever they want, including in Judea and Samaria, called Obama a true friend of Israel, but added: “At the end of the day we would have to absorb the tragic and destructive results of the formation of a Palestinian state.”
“That is why the nation chose a government that does not include support for a two-state solution in its guidelines, and the U.S. president, for whom democracy in a guiding principle, must respect that,” she said.
Left-wing politicians supported Obama’s address. For example, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of the Hatnua party called it “important and inspiring.”
“It is our job to implement our Zionist vision as is reflected in his eloquent words for the young people of Israel – those who were in the Convention Center and those at home,” she added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded diplomatically, in a written statement:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks US President Barack Obama for his unreserved support for the State of Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu shares President Obama’s view regarding the need to advance a peace that ensures the security of Israel’s citizens.
Netanyahu referred to the satirical sketch show Obama mentioned in his speech, Eretz Nehederet, which means “A Wonderful Country.” Netanyahu said he “agrees with President Obama that we have an eretz nehederet.”