Sunday 24 March 2013

Obama in Israel


Barack Obama ends his feud with Benjamin Netanyahu

BARACK OBAMA completed a policy U-turn this week, throwing his support behind Israel in the endless search for peace with the Palestinians.

SUNDAY EXPRESS, March 24, 2013

Barack Obama in Jordan's ancient city of Petra
It was kiss-and-make-up time as the US president met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
The two vowed to start over after four years of snubs, insults and backstabbing.
Obama used his host’s nickname “Bibi” 10 times at a press conference; Netanyahu thanked him for sparing the time to meet him more than any other foreign leader on his four-day Middle East tour.
Forgotten were the icy photo-calls in the Oval Office and Netanyahu’s backing for Obama’s presidential rival Mitt Romney last year. The Israeli-US friendship, was underscored when the nuclear threat from Iran came up: “We’ve got your back,” promised Obama.
He also reversed a passage of an infamous speech that suggested Israel was founded mainly as a response to the Second World War Holocaust.
He declared: “For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide.” 
Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu
Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu have settled their differences
Obama and Netanyahu vowed to start over after four years of snubs, insults and backstabbing.
He denounced Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorists. They dismissed him as an employee of the “Zionist entity”.
The atmosphere was far chillier when Obama spent barely four hours in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas stood stony-faced as Obama refused to condemn Israel’s West Bank settlements, branding them mere “irritants” while Palestinians see them as illegal and an obstacle to peace. He reiterated that the US wanted a peaceful co-existence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Obama ended his tour with a trip to Jordan, sightseeing in the historic city of Petra.
He also took the chance to make a speech critical of Syria’s President Assad.

Friday 22 March 2013

Obama in Israel

Turkey restores diplomatic relations with Israel after President Obama secures surprise apology for 2010 commando raid to enforce Gaza blockade

Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu personally apologized for the raid to enforce a naval blockade of Gaza that resulted in nine deaths on a Turkish ship. In Israel, Obama also laid wreaths at the graves of Zionism founder Theodor Herzl and assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Jordan is the final stop on his four-day trip to the Middle East.


FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2013

President Obama listens to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their visit to the Children's Memorial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.


President Obama listens to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their visit to the Children's Memorial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

JERUSALEM — President Obama brokered a surprise peace deal here Friday but it was between Israel and Turkey, not the Palestinians.
Obama helped secure an Israeli apology for a 2010 commando raid on a Turkish ship that resulted in nine deaths while Israel was enforcing a naval embargo on Gaza.


President Obama observed a moment of silence in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, alongside Israeli President Shimon Peres (left) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally extended Israel’s regrets and offered compensation in a phone call to his long-furious Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At one point, Obama even got on the line.


President Obama pays his respects in the Hall of Remembrance after a wreath was placed on his behalf.

In return, Turkey restored full diplomatic relations between the two nations — once close allies in the fractious Middle East.
Before departing for Jordan and the final leg of his Middle East trip, Obama made a series of visits in Israel filled with symbolism.


President Obama looks at photos of Holocaust victims in the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

He paid his respects at the graves of murdered Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Zionist founding father Theodor Herzl.


President Obama was joined in the Hall of Remembrance by Israel's President Shimon Peres, Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and the Abnkor Children's Choir.

Following the Jewish tradition of laying a simple stone on a tomb when visiting, Obama brought to Rabin’s grave a pebble from the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington.
He also toured the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem — the biblical birthplace of Jesus — and paid his respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.


President Obama said the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial illustrates the depravity to which man can sink but also serves as a reminder of the ‘righteous among nations who refused to be bystanders.’

Wearing a Jewish skull cap, Obama re-kindled the memorial flame in the stark hall containing the names of the death camps and ashes from the Nazi crematoria, and then toured the Children's Exhibition where he heard recited the names of some of the 1.5 million Jewish children killed by the Nazis among a mirrored darkness illuminated by hundreds of flickering lights.


President Obama participated in an official arrival ceremony with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman.

Obama’s stop at Herzl’s grave, whose vision for a Jewish state predated the Holocaust, seemed intended to undo the message of Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech where he suggested that the main reason for Israel's existence was the suffering of Jews in the Holocaust. That Cairo speech drew harsh criticism in Israel.
At Yad Vashem, Obama said, “Here on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear ... the state of Israel does not exist because of the holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel, such a holocaust will never happen again.”


Jordan's King Abdullah speaks during a joint news conference with President Obama at Al-Hummar Palace in Amman.

Hours earlier, speaking to Israeli students, he reminded his audience of Dr. King's respect for Jewish tradition and the lessons of next week's Passover Seder that celebrates the liberation from slavery to the promised land.
"To African Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity," Obama said.
"As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed, "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.'"

Thursday 21 March 2013

Obama in Israel

Paralyzed Long Island vet demonstrates Israeli tech and gets a bear hug from Obama

Theresa Hannigan, a former U.S. Army sergeant, got to meet the President and also got to show off the ReWalk, a $60,000 bionic suit invented by Israeli scientists that allows her to walk again.


Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Theresa Hannigan gets a bear hug from President Barack Obama as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on. Hannigan, from Long Island, was at a technology expo at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and demonstrated the ReWalk, an Israeli-invented exoskeleton that is helping the paralyzed veteran walk.


Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Theresa Hannigan gets a bear hug from President Barack Obama as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on. Hannigan, from Long Island, was at a technology expo at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and demonstrated the ReWalk, an Israeli-invented exoskeleton that is helping the paralyzed veteran walk.

JERUSALEM — She was the surprise star attraction in an exhibit of the latest in Israeli technology.

Theresa Hannigan, a paralyzed retired U.S. Army sergeant from Long Island, found herself bear-hugged by President Obama Thursday as she showed how she regained the power to walk.

Hannigan suffers from a neurological auto-immune disease, but with ReWalk, a $60,000 bionic suit invented by Israeli scientists, she can even climb stairs.

The exoskeleton suit uses computers and motion sensors to allow paraplegics to walk with motorized legs that power knee and hip movement. It made headlines last year when British athlete Clare Lomas became the first paraplegic to walk the London Marathon.

Hannigan, 60, of Patchogue, told Obama she was introduced to it by Dr. Anne Spungen at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in the Bronx. When she put on the suit it was “beyond words,” she said.

“I had to sit down. I couldn’t believe that what they were telling me was true — that I was going to be able to press a button and simply stand,” she told the Daily News.

“Please tell me how you’re standing, tell me how this works,” asked the President.

After listening to her explain her tale, he made her day.

“He said ‘Oh,’ and that’s when he came over and hugged me,” said the delighted vet. “I thought: ‘Oh my God, the President of the United States gets it and he’s hugging me.’ He just came right at me and gave me a bear hug like your father would give you.”

Obama in Palestine

The Guardian home

Obama wins few friends on flying stop to West Bank

US president's visit lasted little more than four hours, most of it spent inside heavily-guarded presidential compound

  • Matthew Kalman in Ramallah
  • The Guardian, Thursday 21 March 2013
President Barack Obama visit to West Bank, Palestinian Territories - 21 Mar 2013
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and US president Barack Obama in Ramallah Photograph: ZUMA / Rex Features
In Jerusalem the streets were decorated with Stars and Stripes for the visit of Barack Obama. Officials even created an official logo for the visit and plastered it across advertising hoardings.
In Ramallah it is a rather different story. The only billboards to mark the US president's trip to what is in effect the capital of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank were dozens of posters put up by protesters along the main road from Jerusalem, which read: "Obama: don't bring your smart phone to Ramallah – you won't have mobile access to the internet – we have no 3G in Palestine." They had been painted over, apparently by security officials.
While Obama's speeches in Israel have been peppered with endearing Hebrew phrases, he has said only one word publicly in Arabic: "Marhaba" (hello).
The US president landed in Ramallah to the strain of a military band, but his visit was short, lasting little more than four hours, most of them spent inside the heavily guarded Mukata presidential compound talking to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Obama briefly inspected an honour guard before beginning two hours of talks with Abbas followed by lunch. After a press conference, Obama ventured out to a youth centre to see a group of young people who had built robots using Lego and had come second in an international competition, before he headed back to Jerusalem.
Flying in and out on the presidential helicopter Marine One, Obama could not see a group of about 300 protesters who had gathered a few hundred metres from the Mukata chanting anti-American slogans that accused the US of war crimes.
Central Ramallah and nearby Al-Bireh were in effect placed under curfew until Obama's departure. The area around Abbas's compound and the youth centre, and the roads between them, were cordoned off by armed police who set up roadblocks and turned away all traffic. There were no crowds of cheering scouts or flag-waving children – just a slightly ominous calm that seemed to presage a political storm.
Inside the Mukata, the atmosphere was barely more cordial. Palestinian leaders had hoped for a gesture of friendship from Obama to compensate for his back-slapping banter with Netanyahu the night before, whom he called by his nickname "Bibi" 10 times in half an hour.
Instead, Obama berated Abbas for insisting on a freeze on new settlements as a precondition to re-starting peace talks, calling them merely "an irritant".
Abbas, whose trademark scowl seemed particularly intense, looked shocked.
"We require the Israeli government to stop settlements to discuss our issues," he shot back. "It's not only our perspective that settlements are illegal. The UN security council has issued more than 13 resolutions condemning settlements and calling on Israel to remove them."
Nor were the Palestinians impressed by Obama's repeated reference to Israel as a "Jewish state", and his tendency to dwell on Israeli security concerns.
"How would President Obama feel if the US became a 'white Protestant' country? Just like Palestinians in Israel feel with 'Jewish Israel'," said PLO official Xavier Abu Eid. He said Obama was "giving a lesson about fears of an occupying power while visiting a colonised and occupied people".
Obama will pay another brief visit to Palestinian territory on Friday when he tours Bethlehem before departing for Jordan. Many people in the West Bank might be left wondering why he came at all.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

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