What Obama Will Tell Young Israelis Tomorrow

Tomorrow's speech could be the moment he pivots to the challenges of the peace process.
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The key moment in President Obama's Operation Desert Schmooze comes tomorrow, when he addresses a gathering of young Israelis at Jerusalem's convention center. This will be the moment, I think, when he actually pivots publicly to the challenges of peace process (today, it's all about stressing how much he loves Israel). My half-educated guess going in is that he will, in the first part of the speech, repeat some themes he discussed at his arrival ceremony earlier today -- he will stress the ancient Jewish connection to the land, and promise that the American alliance with Israel is "unbreakable." (Unbreakability is a theme of this visit; I'm sitting at the prime minister's residence, looking at Chuck Todd across the table from me, and his press pass reads, "Unbreakable Alliance." We also got mugs that read "Unbreakable Alliance," which, of course, we are tempted to try and break.)

After the extensive throat-clearing, I understand that Obama may use the upcoming Passover holiday -- which appears to be his favorite holiday (he holds a seder in the White House every year)  -- to begin to raise questions about Israel's overall direction. (He will praise the Passover story, of course, and mention both its universality -- and especially its resonance among African-Americans --  but also its particularity, which is to say, that it is the story of a specific group's liberation in a specific place.) But what interests Obama a great deal about Passover is the questioning that is embedded in the Haggadah, the retelling of the Passover story that is read during the seder.

Questioning, and doubting, are integral to the Jewish tradition, and it would certainly be clever of Obama to use this tradition to his advantage. He has been trying for years, without success, to encourage Israelis to ask themselves how exactly the West Bank settlement project squares with their desire to maintain Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. This speech, this visit, and this holiday, ally provide him with the opportunity to raise the question again.

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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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