While mulling over plans to expand the U.S. role in the Afghanistan war, President Barack Obama woke up today to find that he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Is it good for the Jews? Does this presage an outbreak of peace in the Middle East?
Table Magazine noted that the Nobel committee’s decision has some flummoxed:
Reaction to his win has been predictably mixed—with some observers saying that simply by altering the rhetoric and protocols of American diplomacy, Obama deserved it. Past recipient and outgoing International Atomic Energy Agency direct-general Mohammed ElBaradei was “delighted” at the news, saying that no one better deserved the Prize. Lech Walesa, the Polish Solidarity leader who won the Nobel in 1983 and was not pleased with Obama’s decision to scrap a proposed missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, was perplexed: “Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast—he hasn’t had the time to do anything yet.”
- Then President-Elect Obama addresses AIPAC’s national conference. (Photo: AIPAC)
Like Walesa’s take on the Nobel for Obama,Â Eugene Rogan, director of the Middle East Center at Oxford University in England, told the Associated Press:Â “The award is premature. He hasn’t done anything yet. But he’s made clear from the start of his presidency his commitment to promote peace. No doubt the Nobel committee hopes the award will enhance his moral authority to advance the cause of peace while he’s still president.”
In Israel, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak extended big mazal tovs to Obama; however, some expressed fear that the president would now have to actually twist arms to resolve the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to Haaretz:
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) was less enthusiastic at the Nobel committee’s decision, saying that “it’s very strange that Obama won.”
He added his concern that “it is possible that he might force Israel into a peace deal now that he has won the award.”
In other Nobel-related news,Â Dr. Ada Yonath, a scientist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute, was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday, only the fourth woman in history to secure the prize.
JTA reported that Yonath joined Americans Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz in winning the prize for mapping ribosomes, the mechanisms that manufacture proteins within cells. The work has helped medical researchers tailor antibiotics for diseases.
A Jerusalem Post report added that Yonath’s prize will be Israel’s ninth Nobel and its second in chemistry, and the Rehovot institute’s first. The ceremony will be held in Stockholm on Dec. 10. — Mordecai Specktor