How Obama’s Nobel Speech Will Play in Israel

Was it naïve about Israel, or was it tough-minded?


The Israel-Palestine conflict was mentioned directly only once in President Barack Obama’s Nobel speech this morning, and still fairly vaguely at that. Yet the reference has already provoked some interesting discussion. Toward the close of the address, Obama said:

And yet somehow, given the dizzying pace of globalization, the cultural leveling of modernity, it perhaps comes as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish in their particular identities—their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we’re moving backwards. We see it in the Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.

Poltico’s Ben Smith supposes that Israelis might feel insulted by Obama’s casting them as tribal, even primitive, as well as implicitly placing them on the same plane as the “Arabs.” But Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s top political guy, takes a different view. Many Israelis, he says, “especially on the right, would see this as Obama finally realizing that (from the Israeli perspective) the dispute is not ‘just about’ borders and can’t we just split the difference and all get along … but that the Arabs just don’t want the Jews around and don’t want to settle the conflict.” It is bizarre to think that a Nobel Peace Prize speech—guaranteed to be read years and years from now—is still grist for the usual political close-read mill. Yet as Obama was careful to remind the world, he is first and foremost a politician, “a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation.”

Air Force Triplets Are Zionism’s Best Advertisement

You’ll want to see the bigger picture

The Orbaum triplets, in uniform.(Jerusalem Post)

Meet Odelia, Nomi, and Donna Orbaum, 19-year-old Israeli triplets all currently serving in the Israeli Air Force.

What was your next question? Oh yes, non-Israelis can learn more about enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces here.

Dad Would Be Proud: Orbaum Triplets Serving in IAF [JPost]

Today Marks Anniversary of Madoff Confession

This day in infamous Jewish history


One year ago today, the sons of asset management whiz Bernard Madoff informed legal authorities that their father had confessed to running a multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme. A central point in the financial web of Jewish-American personages and institutions, he was arrested the following day, and the rest is history. The Forward has a retrospective package, which focuses on the effect the Madoff scandal continues to have on Jewish life and in particular Jewish philanthropy. For many, it is an important, if bitter, anniversary. For Madoff, it’s one more day in a prison term capped at 150 years.

Madoff: A Year Later [Forward]

New Poll: Israelis Split on Obama

Contra conventional wisdom, they don’t all dislike him

The President and First Lady arrive at the Nobel Ceremony this morning.(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning, shortly after President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, a newly released report found that even Israelis—who are thought of as more skeptical of Obama’s peace-making capabilities than most—have a generally favorable view of the president and his promise of bringing greater amity to the globe. The poll, conducted for the nonpartisan New America Foundation by a prominent Democratic pollster, concluded: “Despite repeated media reports touting a ‘4 percent Obama approval rating’ and arguments that the United States has lost the Israeli public’s support for renewed peace efforts, Israelis actually demonstrate a much more supportive and nuanced view.” A majority of Israelis believe Obama’s election will prove a plus for the world’s problems, according to the study, although slightly less than a majority believe he supports Israel. His 41 percent approval rating may seem a bit soft, but it is higher than his 37 percent disapproval rating. The main takeaway: Israel and Israelis are not as down on Obama as the conventional wisdom believes they are.

The main tension articulated in the poll results, it seems to us, is between Israelis’ apparent lack of a sense of urgency regarding a final-status agreement with the Palestinians and their perception of the American attitude here. Half think an agreement must be reached over the next few years; nearly half think an agreement should take “as long as necessary”; and nearly 60 percent think an agreement will not ever be struck. (Pity the at-least 10 percent who think both an agreement must occur soon and an agreement will occur never.) Yet, the Israelis also perceive the United States’s eagerness to settle the matter in the near future, and therefore worry that in the event that Israel rejects a United States-sponsored final agreement, military and financial repercussions will follow. The one country in the world whose trust and support it cannot afford to lose—65 percent believe the United States is the only powerful country it can count on—also does not know what is best for it, many Israelis fear.

A final note: the poll was done by Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications, and specifically by partner Jim Gerstein. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Tablet Magazine’s Allison Hoffman has profiled him, and because he is a leading pollster for the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street. Expect that group to argue that the numbers confirm that the president’s attempts at tough love toward the Israelis have not fallen as flatly as his critics have alleged. Meanwhile, expect those same critics to contend that even the high numbers are not high enough.

New America Foundation Israel Survey Analysis [New America Foundation]
Engaging Israelis on the Road to Final Status [New America Foundation]

Related: The Pulse-Taker [Tablet Magazine]

Today in Tablet

A Hanukkah primer, what the world thought of our song


Today in Tablet Magazine, everything you always wanted to know about Hanukkah (which starts at sundown tomorrow night), but were afraid to ask. (Step #1: relax—it’s a very lenient holiday.) Hadara Graubart collects some of our favorite responses to the Hanukkah song that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) composed for Tablet Magazine. And plenty of fun (including possibly Hanukkah-related) will be had today on The Scroll.

Daybreak: Ambassador Oren Bashes J Street

Plus U.S. blames Goldstone, Obama accepts prize


• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren told the United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism that dovish American group J Street is “a unique problem” because it “opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.” [Forward]
• In an off-the-cuff (though not –record) remark, a high-ranking U.S. diplomat blamed the Goldstone Report for the “fairly substantial gap” that newly exists between Israelis and Palestinians. [JTA]
• As negotiations with Syria become more likely, the Knesset passed a bill—supported by Prime Minister Netanyahu—to require a referendum before Israel withdraws from its territory. The Golan Heights was on the legislators’ minds. [Haaretz]
• President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, insisting that the use of force is sometimes “morally justified.” [NYT]
• But Ari Shavit, among Israel’s most influential columnists, argued, “He will be awarded the prize only because he is a Democrat, a liberal and a black man who defeated the Republicans.” [Haaretz]

Sundown: Bibi Cancels Copenhagen Trip

Plus fairweather friends of the Jews, Jews do Christmas, and more


• Citing the high cost to taxpayers due to his extensive security detail, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his planned trip to the U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen. [Haaretz]
• A right-wing chain letter beams over the Jews’ achievements … as a way of putting down those of Muslims. [The Awl]
• The ten best Christmas albums by Jews (or, in Harry Connick, Jr.’s case, half-Jews). [Jewcy]
• Denmark’s 2000-member Jewish community fears it will essentially cease to exist in the near future. [JTA]
• And check out Israeli President Shimon Peres’s new YouTube channel. YouTube’s founder flew to Israel for the launch. [Forward]

Run, Rahm, Run?

Emanuel steps closer to the spotlight


Is Rahm Emanuel planning to run for the Illinois seat in the U.S. Senate due to be open next November? Capital J’s Ron Kampeas suggests he might. In a few words, he almost certainly will not: it is essentially inconceivable that, in the midst of being the boss of every White House employee other than the president, Emanuel has had time to set in motion plans to take the seat in under a year (the seat is currently held, in a two-year appointment, by Sen. Roland Burris, and previously held by President Barack Obama). But Kampeas is nonetheless perceptive to note that Emanuel, who once harbored dreams of becoming the first Jewish Speaker of the House of Representatives, has made himself more visible as of late. Last night, he headlined a congressional fundraiser for the first time since becoming White House chief-of-staff. (The event was for Rep. Howard Berman (D-California), who chairs the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee.) He also spoke at last month’s Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly. So higher profile, yes. But, for now, only in the service and at the pleasure of the president.

More Tidbits, Is Rahm Running Edition [Capital J]

Boxer Credits God for … Defeat?

Salita, in Israel, reflects on loss


It’s been only a few days since Dimitry “Star of David” Salita’s 76-second pummeling at the fists of world junior welterweight champion Amir Khan in Newcastle, England Saturday night, yet already the Ukrainian-born, Brooklyn-bred Orthodox Jewish boxer is waxing philosophical on his humbling defeat. And he’s doing so in Israel, on a trip sponsored by the aliyah-promoting Nefesh b’Nefesh, prompting some to wonder whether Salita is considering a change of scenery. (He denies firm plans.) “I was cold and I didn’t get into the fight,” Salita says. “It felt like the easiest fight of my life. I mean, nothing happened.” Those who witnessed Salita get knocked down three times in the first round might disagree, but we understand what he means. More mystifying, however, is Salita’s claim that his ability to box comes from God. Given the circumstances, some might consider that blasphemy.

For the masochistic, here is video of the fight:

‘Star of David’ Boxer Visits Israel After Loss [AP]
U.S. Boxing Champ in Israel: God Gave Me the Ability to Box [Arutz Sheva]

Previously: Orthodox Boxer Crushed in Title Bout

Brooklyn Bike Activists Are Arrested

The bike lane issue continues to mushroom


There is new news today on those activists who filmed themselves painting a bike lane onto a stretch of Brookyn’s Bedford Avenue in the middle of the night. They did so, recall, in protest of the mayor’s office’s decision to remove the lane that used to be there, apparently in order to appease the neighborhood’s Satmar Hasidim, who don’t like immodestly dressed Williamsburg hipsters biking by. The activists were initially caught red-handed by the Satmars’ Shomrim patrol, who called the cops; now, a couple days later, the renegade painters have been arrested. Incidentally, Baruch Herzfeld, who has made a name for himself as a sort of Hasid-hipster liason on the bike-lane issue (and, believe it or not, it truly is quite the issue for many), said the activists contained members of both camps. However, one of the two arrested painters offered this credo to the New York Post: “We’re self-hating Jewish hipsters.”

The guerilla paint-job video is below:

Bikers in the Spokey [NY Post]

Previously: Hipsters Take Bike Lane Battle to the Streets (Literally)

Did NYC’s Transit Dept. Strike a Backroom Deal with the Satmars?

Palestinian PM: No Unilateral Declaration of Statehood

Fayyad assures American Jewish delegation

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at a press conference in Ramallah today.(Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Hey, remember a couple of weeks ago when the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said that in the absence of negotiations with the Israelis, the Palestinians would just go ahead and declare statehood unilaterally? Well, not so much. Yesterday, a delegation of Americans from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs met in Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (whom Michael Weiss profiled yesterday in this magazine), and he told them he would wait for a negotiated settlement. “He said there should not be a unilateral decision on Palestinian statehood, but that it should be negotiated with Israel, which is different from what we heard before,” Steve Gutow, the JCPA’s executive director, told Tablet Magazine today. According to Gutow, Fayyad expressly said he was modeling his plans on Israel’s pre-1948 institution-building efforts. “He said there are three tracks,” Gutow explained, “and he’s working on two of them unilaterally—building the foundations of a state, and of an economy.” One other item was on the agenda: the University of Texas’s dramatic, come-from-behind victory last weekend over Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship—Gutow, you see, is a native Texan, and Fayyad went to school there. Nice to see that something is important enough to trump politics: namely, football.

Related: The Pragmatist

Latke Special Hits Upper West Side

Chef Bill Telepan makes a mean brisket, too


Joan Nathan’s New York Times article today on Gentile chefs who cook Hanukkah food in deference to their Jewish spouses mentions Craft’s (and Top Chef’s) Tom Colicchio, cookbook author Sara Moulton, and Washington, D.C., chef Todd Gray. However, it leaves out Bill Telepan, whose eponymous restaurant is on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and whose wife, Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz has noted, is Jewish. Anyway, a Tablet Magazine reporter ran into Telepan last night, and he told us that during Hanukkah, his restaurant will serve his latkes topped with smoked salmon—“famous (according to my daughter),” his Website says. We don’t have the recipe (although the Times has Chef Paul O’Connell’s Red Flannel Potato Latkes), but if you want to cook Telepan’s Shredded Brisket Pasta, look no further than the video below.

Chef Telepan Reinvents the Brisket from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

At Hanukkah, Chefs Make Kitchen Conversions [NYT]

Today in Tablet

Hey hey, Orrin Hatch, you wrote us a song


Today in Tablet Magazine, watch and listen to a recording of “Eight Days of Hanukkah,” a song written by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) for the magazine. Contributor Jeffrey Goldberg explains the provenance of the song (Sen. Hatch, it seems, is a man of his word), and praises its lyrics as a rebellion against “the Adam Sandlerization of Judaism in America.” With due respect to Sandler, Philip Roth is much more the muse of The Scroll, which will have new posts throughout the day.

Brooklyn Neighborhood Becomes Test of Jewish Identity

Blog responds to NYT article on Midwood


A New York Times article about the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn—specifically, the way in which the feel of the neighborhood has been altered by a recent influx of wealthy Orthodox Jews—has prompted a rather profound debate about Jewish identity on a neighborhood blog. On Saturday, The Ditmas Park Blog mentioned the article—the post was written by “Ben,” who, for what it’s worth, is Politico blogger Ben Smith—and the comments quickly turned to a fairly fascinating (if anonymous to semi-anonymous) discussion of the ethnic versus religious nature of being Jewish. It is interesting to think that what prompted the issue was not Jews’ dealing with a different group, but rather with one group of Jews dealing with a different group of Jews: though Orthodox Jews tend to be the ones building and buying the big new houses, the disappearing small old houses of Midwood are generally occupied by … secular Jews.

NYT Goes to Midwood [Ditmas Park Blog]
Where Prosperity Breeds Proximity [NYT]

Daybreak: U.S. Takes Different Tack on Jerusalem

Plus Bibi’s charge, Gentile latkes, and the Times covers Tablet


• A diplomat distanced the United States from the European Union’s statement advocating negotiations on Jerusalem. “We believe this is a final-status issue,” he said. [Ynet]
• Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu alleged that the Palestinians’ strategy is to delay negotiations indefinitely. He also warned that a failure to engage will result in no resolution. [Haaretz]
• One article profiles chefs who are Gentile but married to Jews, who learn how to cook Hanukkah delicacies, usually with a twist (sous vide brisket! sufganiyot with dulce de leche!). [NYT]
• A profile of Eddie Goldstein—“one of the last Jews in Boyle Heights”—tells the story of his neighborhood, which used to be the center of Los Angeles Jewish life but is now largely Hispanic, through the story of his life. [LAT]
• On a dare from journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a Mormon, wrote a Hanukkah song. You can listen to it … on Tablet Magazine. [NYT]

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