Barack Obama in Israel: You can go to the ball, they told me – but remember to go in by the back entrance

Alistair Dawber had a much-coveted  ticket to the dinner thrown for Obama. There were strings attached, though

Last week it was on, then by Tuesday it was definitely off, but on Thursday morning a call from Shimon Peres’s office and it was back on again: The Independent was going to the ball, or more specifically, the state dinner thrown by the Israeli President in honour of Barack Obama’s visit.

For mere reporters, however, the dinner jamboree is not as glamorous as it might be. A small number of foreign journalists – a Brit, an American and a German among us – had been invited along with the local press pack to provide words for the “pool”, a system that sees a few reporters file for all fellow foreign correspondents here.

The instructions were specific: turn up at the back entrance to the President’s residence at least an hour early, and don’t worry about dressing up – by the time the dinner starts, you’ll be in a tent in the back garden,  set up for journalists.

Still, it was just like being at the Oscars. The red carpet at the President’s residence was in place hours before the guests arrived and scores of staffers spent the afternoon running around in the heat ensuring the last-minute details were in place.

One such detail that was sadly overlooked was the TV set in the media tent, which couldn’t be turned on when, earlier, the American President made the set-piece speech of his visit to Israel’s young people – a fact that was made infinitely worse by the fact that someone had managed to cut through the cable that provided us with the internet. Not such a good endorsement for a country that sees itself a hi-technology hub.

On then to the pen adjacent to the red carpet, and one of the first guests to arrive, right on the advertised start time of 6.30, was the towering figure of Yityish Aynaw, the recently crowned Miss Israel, who said after being invited to the dinner last week that the American President had been a “notable influence on her life”.

As Ms Aynaw gave interviews to local television crews other, perhaps less glamorous, guests slipped into the reception – both opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich and the outgoing Bank of Israel head Stanley Fischer, among others. Thirty-five minutes after arriving, Miss Israel was still outside chatting to reporters.

The 120-odd guests that included leading Israeli and American politicians, religious leaders and heads of military were all in place before Mr Obama and Mr Peres, along with the  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, arrived in the building. Somewhat like schoolchildren, those of us who had had a purple dot attached to our press credentials, allowing us into the dining room, were pushed into a small corner, where we were told, strictly, not to make any noise.

Mrs Netanyahu, an intimidating woman in her own right, gazed up at the US President as he helped her into her seat at the top table, Mr Netanyahu himself having long since sat down.

Much of the trip has been about mutual backslapping, and Thursday evening was no exception. After being awarded the “Presidential Medal of Distinction” – Israel’s highest honour – by President Peres, Mr Obama then made a speech that started with a toast and a joke about Mr Peres having removed his wine glass. The star-struck waitress bearing a new glass was on the platform a little too quickly to think that the whole thing hadn’t been scripted in advance.

Speeches over, the hacks went back to their tent, where, praise be, the internet was back and stories were written. Then it was out into the night again, through the back entrance, naturally.

Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice