Knesset member blasts Obama for not inviting Ariel students to speech
In a letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Member of Knesset Yoni Chetboun of the Habayit Hayehudi party criticized U.S. President Barack Obama for not inviting students from Ariel University of Samaria to his speech at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem next week, Israel Hayom reported.
Chetboun also questioned Obama’s decision to not deliver the speech at the Knesset, calling that move unprecedented for a visiting foreign leader.
“Next week, Obama will deliver his main speech in front of students, not the Knesset,” Chetboun said. “He claimed that he wanted to speak directly to Israeli society, saying this was not a political visit.”
The White House and the U.S. State Department both did not immediately respond to requests for comment from JNS.org.
Ariel University was recognized last year as Israel’s eighth full-fledged state university and the first located on the other side of the Green Line, the 1949 armistice line that served as a de facto border before 1967. The Obama administration has been a consistent critic of Israel’s decisions to expand construction in Jewish communities situated beyond the Green Line.
“And I ask, is the decision to boycott Ariel not political?” Chetboun said. “On one hand, the president says his speech isn’t political, but on the other hand, he rejects and boycotts the students from Ariel.”
“I very much hope the boycott decision was made by the president’s advisers and not by the president himself,” he said.
Additionally, head of the Ariel University Student Union Shay Shahaf said of not receiving invitations to the speech, “We were pretty shocked about the discrimination and the way in which they are giving up on a university in Israel,” according to Yedioth Ahronoth.
MK Chetboun’s letter was addressed to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. Shapiro on Tuesday called Obama’s upcoming visit “historic.” On Wednesday, in a Hebrew language interview on with Israel’s Channel 10 that was cited by the Times of Israel, Shapiro said rumors of Obama disliking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are “incorrect” and that the two leaders “share common interests.”