The Jews and Their City. And Their Umbrellas.
At the AIPAC Conference with Netanyahu
Later today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sit down with President Obama for the first time since November. The two leaders will presumably continue the conversation Netanyahu started yesterday in meetings with both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. But Netanyahu’s comments last night here in Washington, D.C., to the more than 7,500 people attending the annual AIPAC convention, suggest he isn’t ready, at least publicly, to back off his right to keep building in Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem is not a settlement,” Netanyahu said, earning roaring applause for a line that was tested by other speakers earlier in the day. “It’s our capital.” To drive the point home, Netanyahu trotted out a story that he is, judging by the fact that he has told it before, pretty fond of: it’s the tale of the 2,800-year-old signet ring, which the prime minister keeps in his office, that has the name “Netanyahu” etched into it. This time, he embellished the story with a reference to Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose namesake was a brother of the first Benjamin, and roamed around Biblical Judea too. “The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied,” Netanyahu reasoned. “The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied.”
The AIPAC delegates clapped, and gave regular standing ovations; with help from alert staff cheerleaders, they clapped loud enough to drown out two protesters who tried to interrupt the speech. (Hey, protesters! Were you the same people who interrupted Netanyahu in November? We wonder.)
After the talk, though, people cleared out of the main ballroom especially fast. Here’s the thing: it rained yesterday, off and on, in Washington, and people had their umbrellas with them. But the Secret Service, which was brought in to handle security, confiscated the potentially dangerous (I guess?) implements. (This did not make the Obama administration any more popular with the crowd, including the one Minyan-level donor—someone who gave at least $100,000 to AIPAC last year—who warned a guard he’d send the Secret Service a $15 bill if the brolly wasn’t returned.)
After dinner, these righteous umbrella-owners emerged to find only chaos. Thousands of umbrellas, most of them identical black folding models, had been unceremoniously dumped on the floor by the front door. Which naturally didn’t stop the crowd from skipping dessert to dive in; nor did it stop others—this being a conference of active, civic-minded Jews—from immediately considering the ethics of taking an umbrella that was almost like the one you brought. Judging from the triumphant cries of those who persevered (including me), the connection between these Jewish people and their own umbrellas couldn’t be denied, either.
Earlier: Netanyahu’s Brief Homecoming
But Obama is more powerful than ever; and more in the news
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.