Fans and critics spar over Obama at AACI party

Jewish Americans who have come to live in Israel cannot agree whether US president is a curse or a blessing.

By ILANA STRAUSS
July 2, 2009 21:38
2 minute read.
Fans and critics spar over Obama at AACI party

Obama 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Jewish Americans who have come to live in Israel have strong and divergent opinions over whether President Barack Obama is a curse or a blessing to the US and Israel. And they expressed them robustly at the AACI's (Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel) US Independence Day celebration, at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Wednesday. Dozens of ex-Americans - some who had made aliya only a few months ago and others who had been in the country for decades - showed up to eat hot dogs, watch Hollywood films, and remember the country they left behind. When it came to Obama, some considered the new president to be no less than an evil presence. David Jaffee, a former California resident, described him as a disaster. "America is going to turn into a third-world country," he warned. Jaffee's prime critique: Obama's decision to raise taxes is making people "less independent" and "less innovative." As for Israel, Jaffee said he believed "America should be focusing on its own problems and not on the 'poor' Arabs." But Becky Rowe thought the US president was doing a great job. "His speech in Cairo was brilliant," she said, referring to the president's outreach address last month to the Muslim world. And she added: "A strong America is a strong Israel." Efrat Benn, an educational policy researcher and Jerusalem resident, agreed, saying Obama is doing "amazing things" with his domestic agenda. "US healthcare is a national embarrassment," she said. In Benn's opinion, Obama's actions in the areas of domestic recovery and Supreme Court nominations are telling, powerful examples of his brilliance. She applauded his "rigid approach to ethics." Mimi Vorowich, who works on Rusty Mike Radio and made aliya 11 months ago, voted for Obama and was "proud to be an American" during his inauguration. But she was not sop sure he was the right man for her new country. "If I wanted to vote for what's best for Israel, I probably would have [gone with Republican candidate John] McCain," she said. "It is almost as if [Obama] is enabling [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad to continue his reign" - by failing to give more support to Iranian opposition demonstrators. K.A., a culinary student and two year resident of Israel, said she thought Obama's position on the issue of settlements was ridiculous. "He's putting a lot of pressure on Israel to stop growth when it's not his country," she said. She also said Obama had no right to advocate a two-state solution. "There are a lot of Mexicans and Chinese in America, but that doesn't mean they need their own country," she said. "It depends on whether Israel has the guts to say 'We're our own country and we're making our own decisions'." Judy Weinberg, a former New York resident, took the opposite approach, arguing that Israel needed heavy American influence. "It doesn't make a good parent, when you do everything a child wants," she said. Avraham Zimberg, an eight year resident of Israel, branded Obama a destructive force. According to Zimberg, "[Obama is] cuddling up to and making friends with those governments that hate and want to destroy the US more than they want to destroy Israel." "Israel may be a start" warned Zimberg "but it's not the end game." Still, Obama had not affected Zimberg's wider feelings about his former country. As he put it, "I'm as patriotic as I've ever been and still believe in freedom and justice for all."

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