(Hakalah is a Hebrew word meaning “relief,” used here because President Obama didn’t screw up his first presidential visit to Israel.)
STORY #1: Chaverim (friends)
If Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu truly dislike each other, as the media keeps insisting, they’ve done a pretty good job of not letting it show through. Obama even called Netanyahu “my friend Bibi,” which, after this, made my roll my eyes. As for the words that matter, Obama did a good job reiterating the existing U.S. perspective on a two-state solution, settlement construction and Iran, which was really all he had to do.
Surely to the delight of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who would like to see him “play favorites” between Israel and Palestine, Obama reserved particular bile for Hamas, although not just because of how they affect the daily lives of Israelis – case in point, a pair of rocket attacks that injured nobody, but still damaged a home in the town of Sderot. Whatever you may think of their motivation, firing rockets into Israel does nothing to help Palestine. Obama may not have said anything to change that. But at least he set the limits for what he’d tolerate.
STORY #2: Chutzpah (boldness)
Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) – who is not Jewish; Gentile politicians who try to be more pro-Israel than thou piss me off – has put forward a bill that would require the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. At the moment, the U.S. embassy, along with many other embassies, is located in Tel Aviv. This isn’t the first time Congress has attempted this; legislation passed in 1995 allows the president to delay this move indefinitely for security reasons, which each president since then has done. So Heller is on a schmendrick‘s errand.
Under the current border situation, it’s proper to have foreign embassies in the political capital of Israel and not the economic capital. Had Jerusalem been placed under international administration in 1947, to which Israel actually agreed, we might be calling Tel Aviv the political capital and Haifa the economic one. (Common saying: “Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv plays.”) Until Palestine gives up on East Jerusalem as its capital, the status quo will remain.
STORY #3: Ta’im (tasty)
Official Israeli social media accounts have of course been atwitter (tee hee) with updates of Obama and Netanyahu’s palling around. They even shared the menu for the dinner at Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence, prepared by famous chef Shalom Kodesh. Unfortunately, Palestinian chefs weren’t fond of it and decided to counter with a completely non-Israeli menu for Obama’s dinner with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. I’ve never heard of young wheat soup, so I can only assume they succeeded.