In a few minutes, President Obama will address an assembly of Israeli college students, which has been pegged as his major speech of this trip. Only a few people know what he will actually say, others have their suspicions.
Given Obama’s preference for the college crowd over the Knesset floor as a speaking venue, it’s easy to imagine that the President is going to deviate a little bit from the oft-rote solidarity script and impose some high ideals on the Israeli youth. (In other words, some Israelis are finally going to be bothered by him on this trip.)
But first, given what’s to come, it’s important to recap what’s happened already: Since arriving, the President has quoted the Talmud, planted a tree, reaffirmed his support for Israel’s security, bestowed many gifts upon his counterpart and others, posed for countless photos, held high-level meetings, complimented Bibi on his handsome sons, called Bibi “Bibi” on several occasions, marveled at Israel’s history, and gawked at Israel’s shiny gadgetry, defense and high-tech wares alike.
He has also traveled to Ramallah this morning where he told the Palestinians to drop their call for a settlement freeze as a precondition to peace talks (and seemingly convinced PA President Mahmoud Abbas to, at least, say the same). He has recognized the 3,000 years of the Jewish historical, physical, and spiritual links to the land of Israel, made clear his commitment to stopping Iran’s nuclear program in front of the Israeli public, and, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beside him on a dais, quoted the letters of Bibi’s martyred brother Yoni.
Short of releasing Jonathan Pollard, making aliyah, or taking a shvitz with Avigdor Lieberman, there seems little else that the President could have done to reverse the long-standing impression of him in Israel–where he is statistically about as unpopular as Congress is in America–as someone who doesn’t understand the security needs or feelings of the Israeli people.
But now, with expectations built high, comes the speech. What hasn’t Obama said to the Israelis yet? We’ll know a few minutes.
Check back with us later for a dispatch from inside the speech.