Operation Desert Schmooze, Hi-Tech Edition

Is this the most expensive Birthright trip ever staged?

President Obama's visit to Israel strikes me -- and others -- as the most expensive Birthright trip ever staged. Except that this one isn't paid for by Sheldon Adelson.

At this moment, he's touring an ad hoc hi-tech fair that was set up with the express purpose of ruining the aesthetics of the Israel Museum. So far, it's been tree-planting and Iron Dome-watching, and tomorrow he'll be at Yad Vashem and Mt. Herzl. This is a good time to reiterate that this is not what he actually wanted to do on a visit to Israel (here's my idea of what he actually would have wanted to do).

It seems pretty clear, based on the wall-to-wall Israeli media coverage, and several conversations with people who might be called average Israelis (as if there is such a thing), that  Obama's charm offensive is working well. The big test comes this afternoon, when he speaks to a large group of young Israelis, and challenges them to think about the future of their country, and about their relations with the Palestinians.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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