Shortly after planting a magnolia tree in the garden of Israeli President Shimon Peres and quoting the Talmud, Barack Obama made an unexpected announcement.
“Hevre,” Obama said, invoking the Hebrew version of the folksy American analogue, “I’ve decided I want to watch this tree grow here in Israel. And so, I will be making aliyah, just as soon as my term expires.”
Everyone applauded, except for Yair Lapid. Analysts were quick to conclude that they had seen this coming all along. Earlier in the day and before the announcement, JTA’s Ron Kampeas tweeted:
Obama quotes Talmud, talks 3K years, speaks Hebrew. And this is Wednesday.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. Treated to dancing children, enough QT with Shimon Peres, and a carton of bamba, by the late afternoon, Obama had decided he was ready to take the plunge. Back at the King David Hotel, representatives from the Jewish Agency and its immigrant absorption organization Nefesh B’Nefesh met with Obama, explaining the incentives he would receive upon being an Israeli citizen. In addition to having access to the national healthcare system, the Obamas will get a tax-free car purchase and a large container allowance to bring the family belongings. One obstacle revolved around whether Joe Biden could be included in Obama’s packing cargo, but was ironed out in an undisclosed agreement with Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky.
“How could I refuse?” Sharansky said in a press conference.
Reached for comment back in Washington, D.C., First Lady Michelle Obama said she was on board and excited to leave the Beltway. She explained that she would have plenty of work to do:
“Since Israelis are pretty fit, I would look forward to leading a public health campaign to get Israelis to stop smoking.”
It has yet to be decided where the Obamas will take up residence. Avigdor Lieberman has offered a villa near his own home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, but many expect that the Obamas will buy a condo in Jaffa.
“I’ve always been a southside guy,” said Obama of the Tel Aviv suburb.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.