If Israelis thought it was a big deal when hip hop mogul and Kim Kardashian spouse Kanye West first announced that he was heading to Tel Aviv for a late September concert, now they are twice as excited.
At a time when so many A-list performers are avoiding Israel due to the pressures of the BDS movement, they are about to be entertained not only by a top-drawer artist - but by a future presidential candidate.
West announced his candidacy at the end of a rambling acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. The video of his epic monologue threatens to break the Internet to nearly as great an extent as his wife Kim Kardashian's derriere shot did last year. His speech began with an apology to pop star Taylor Swift for having grabbed the microphone from her in 2009, included an admission that he had “rolled up a little something” to smoke and “knock the edge off,” and concluded with his unexpected announcement for a presidential bid five years from now in 2020.
Presumably the announcement was a spoof, but in these days of the Donald Trump candidacy, distinguishing truth from satire is truly becoming close to impossible.
What definitely isn’t a joke is the fact that West is set to touch down for a concert in Ramat Gan stadium near Tel Aviv on September 30, as the glitzy gold signs shining his name over the city’s main highway attest.
So all of this leads us to wonder: what in the world will such an unpredictable guy say about the Middle East and Israel when he hits the stage in this part of the world?
West got into trouble back in 2013 when explaining President Obama’s difficulty in passing legislation by saying, "Man, let me tell you something about George Bush and oil money and Obama and no money. People want to say Obama can't make these moves or he's not executing. That's because he ain't got those connections. Black people don't have the same level of connections as Jewish people.”
Later, he apologized, saying that “I thought that I was giving a compliment, but it came off more ignorant,” adding that “I don’t know how being told that you have money is, like, an insult.” Considering the flashy bling-filled world that West inhabits, his last remark is rather understandable (West might have to reconsider his argument as it is becoming clear that the tens of millions of dollars being used to lobby Congress to kill Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran don’t seem to be doing these supposedly influential Jews much good.)
Subsequently, he seemed quite Israel-friendly when he and his wife made an overnight visit to Jerusalem in April, when the couple baptized their daughter North in Jerusalem’s Armenian Cathedral and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The only political controversy that this brief visit engendered was when Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat angered the ultra-Orthodox community by hosting the celebrity couple at a non-kosher restaurant, with an Instagram photo from which Kardashian was photoshopped out in their newspapers.
Barkat wrote that when he dined with the Kardashian-Wests “I asked them to serve as Jerusalem’s ambassadors and spread the word that Jerusalem is an open city and welcomes everyone.” But there was no word on their answer.
West's fans were disappointed during that visit, when rumors that he would mount a last-minute surprise free concert at the Tower of David museum proved to be false. He said he’d make it up to them by returning to Israel to perform – and presumably the September concert is his fulfillment of that pledge.
If so, actually keeping a promise puts him ahead of many politicians – as does the fact that he has now made a speech that so many young Americans have actually listened to in its entirety. Whether or not they actually understood what he was trying to say is another question.