Daily Israel Report

President Obama Hails 'Twilight of Israel's Founding Generation'

US President addressed the nation of Israel at the Jerusalem Convention Center, to standing ovations.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/21/2013, 3:19 PM

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed a young audience in Jerusalem Thursday afternoon with a message that some will see as inspiring, and others as incitement.

He began by reassuring Israelis that they have the full support of the United States of America. "Those who reject Israel's right to exist," he said, "may as well reject the earth under their feet or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere. And today I want to tell you – particularly the young people – so long as there is a United States of America, atem lo levad. You are not alone."

Obama then went on to speak about the need for establishing a state of Palestine with viable borders, so that Israel could achieve peace. The audience applauded loudly and no dissenting voices could be heard.

Improvising at times and receiving warm applause throughout his speech, Obama eventually reached the point at which he called on Israelis to put pressure on their own government. "Political leaders do not take risks if their people do not push them to take risks," he said. "You must create the change that you want to see. Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope." 

"Remember," he said, "Israel is the most powerful country in the region. Israel has the unshakable support of the strongest country in the world."

Obama told his audience that it is facing "the twilight of Israel's founding generation." He called upon them, in effect, to rise up against their own leadership. "It is up to you," he said, "with the president of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend, to win the battles for peace that will replace war. That is your challenge."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page, some time after the speech, "I thank US President Barack Obama for his unreserved support for the State of Israel. I share President Obama's opinion that one must promote a peace that guarantees the security of all Israel's citizens."

Obama was heckled once during the speech, apparently by a young Arab who shouted "Free Palestine" and called Obama "a Zionist."

Obama's direct messages to Israel's younger citizens will probably be used by the Israeli left wing to rekindle the "social protests" that destabilized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's previous government in 2011. Communist leaders boasted in a Haaretz interview with Ari Shavit earlier this year that they were the ones who organized those events. The protests created pressure on Netanyahu to abandon certain free market principles and caused a loss in investor confidence. These development, in turn, hastened the demise of the 32nd government.