With renewed tension in the Labor Party, and a new round of rumors regarding a coalition shuffle involving Kadima, MKs from the coalition and opposition alike were eager Wednesday to take a temporary respite from Israel’s political upheavals and discuss the troubles of US President Barack Obama instead.

MKs’ analyses of Tuesday’s US midterm elections spanned from positive to negative, with the jury still out on whether the changes in Congress will be good for Israel.

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Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor), as he prepares to depart for a visit to the United States on Thursday, said that “as an economist, and as someone who did his PhD in the US, and lived there for many years, I am very worried by the situation” that emerged from the polling booths Tuesday. Braverman pointed to what he describes as a lack of economic vision on the part of the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

“The difference between mice and men, they say, is memory. The Bush administration accumulated the greatest national debt in US history as a result of two wars and by offering tax cuts to the wealthiest sectors of society. And by the end of his term, there was a real risk of the US dragging the world into a global depression that could have lead to a situation similar to the 1930’s,” he asserted.

“Obama managed to stop that risk through monetary reform, through Ben Bernanke’s efforts at the FED, and through reinvestment efforts. If, instead,” said Braverman, “he had pursued the laissez-faire policy advocated by the far right, the economy would have gotten worse. They simply advocate cutting the budget, which will only raise unemployment.”

Ultimately, said Braverman, “it is not important to me whether Democrats or Republicans are in office, but whether they maintain America’s status in the world.”

The Labor MK recalled a famous meeting between David Ben-Gurion and president- elect John F. Kennedy in January 1961, at the end of which, Kennedy reportedly said to Ben-Gurion “your people helped me to get elected – how can I help you?” The elderly Ben-Gurion, according to the story, told the young president “you can be a great president for your people.

“I hope that Barack Obama will be a great president for America,” continued Braverman, emphasizing that Israel needs the United States to remain a strong partner in peace negotiations.



On the other side of the coalition, Likud MK Danny Danon welcomed the results, saying “the huge influx of newly elected Representatives and Senators to Washington, DC, includes dozens of strong friends of Israel who will put the brakes on the consistently dubious, sometimes dangerous policies of President Obama regarding Israel these past two years.

“The change of majority in the House, with its responsibility for shaping America’s budget, gives tremendous influence to our friends as a counter to the president’s role in foreign policy,” he added.

Danon continued that he hoped that the elections would serve as a sort of referendum on Obama’s Middle East policy, and “that the new majority will convince President Obama that the American people reject unprecedented pressure on Israel, which has every right to build communities for its men, women and children in the heart of the country, in Judea, Samaria and everywhere in Jerusalem.”

Kadima MK Nahman Shai, however, rejected the idea that the elections would be beneficial to Israel regarding Obama’s foreign policy. “I think that Obama will ultimately maintain his course regarding Middle East policy – after all, it is the president and not Congress that determines foreign policy.

“All the people in the Prime Minister’s Office who are walking around with little smiles following the elections should wipe them off their faces, because Obama will continue his same policy – he has tied himself to a specific timetable.”

At the same time, Shai said that he believed that for many American Jews, the elections were a referendum on Obama’s policies toward Israel. “The Jews are in a difficult situation.

Traditionally, they are Democrats, but many were very disappointed by Obama’s foreign policy, and some may also feel that his policies impacted the middle class.

Continued Shai. “There is a crisis of faith for Jews with the Democratic Party and an administration that they see as pro-Arab.” From his own conversations with Jewish leaders, Shai quipped that many hoped that “Obama would break one leg in the elections – not two – because the Republicans are still not their proverbial cup of tea…party.”

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