|Photo by: Carlo Allegri / Reuters|
Candidly Speaking: Post-election musings
By ISI LEIBLER
We must remain optimistic in the knowledge that the United States is a democracy. As long as public opinion continues to support Israel, the relationship between both countries may undergo strains and stresses, but will remain intact.
Being in the US this week during the elections has truly been a remarkable
experience and roller coaster. The outcome is that, for better or for worse, the
American people have determined that President Barack Obama will serve a second
four-year term as leader of the Western world.
Aside from Americans, this
will probably impact more on us in Israel than on any other nation because of
our heavy reliance on US political and military support.
But the die has
been cast and everyone, including those of us who were deeply apprehensive about
how a second term Obama would relate to us, must accept the verdict of the
Our government should now concentrate on devising a
strategy to maximize a meaningful relationship with the second Obama
administration without compromising our security or independence. This will not
be easy but it is achievable so long as we behave rationally, American grass
roots support for Israel remains strong and Congress does not abandon
Despite the fact that most politicians routinely abrogate
pre-electoral promises, we should act on the initial assumption that Obama will
behave honorably and broadly adhere to the positive undertakings relating to
Israel that he constantly reiterated over the past six months. He should be
reminded that in the course of the last debate with Romney he went so far as to
say “Israel is a true friend... It is our greatest ally in the region. And if
Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel.”
Netanyahu will be obliged to endeavor to overcome the personal animosity which
bedeviled his relationship with Obama and contributed to the troublesome
tensions which exacerbated differences between both countries over the past four
We should be heartened by the fact that Obama’s “charm campaign”
and pragmatic pro-Israeli policies designed to obtain support from American Jews
during the pre-election period suggest that he is not necessarily committed to
an ideological anti-Israeli agenda.
Hopefully, from Obama’s vantage, he
may have appreciated that bullying or demeaning Netanyahu was counter-productive
and in fact strengthened rather than undermined his popular support In
He must also be aware that over the past few years, despite some
erosion within the Democratic party, Congress remains overwhelmingly supportive
of Israel, reflecting the record levels of support which Israel enjoys overall
with the American people. Should Obama revert to his earlier approach of
continuously publicly reprimanding Israel while treating the duplicitous
Palestinian leaders with kid gloves, he could bring about a confrontation with
By now, Obama may also have independently reached the
conclusion that by distancing the US and exerting harsh pressure on Israel, all
he achieved was to embolden the radical Islamists and encourage the Palestinians
to become more intransigent in their demands.
Moreover, after burning
itself on so many occasions in its former failed Middle East policies, the new
administration may well decide to distance itself from seeking to resolve the
intractable Arab-Israeli conflict.
We should therefore, at least at the
outset, adopt a positive approach to the new administration and assume that
Obama will adhere to his commitments and that the improvement in relations with
Israel created over the past six months will be sustained.
However, it is
important for pro-Israel activists to be prepared immediately to raise their
voices should he renege on his electoral undertakings.
particularly in relation to Obama’s passionate pledge that Iran would never be
permitted to obtain a nuclear bomb under his watch. He stated repeatedly that,
“As long as I am President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear
Israel must also, if necessary, be prepared to initiate a public
campaign to explain our position should Obama revert to insisting that the
indefensible 1949 armistice lines serve as the opening benchmark for
negotiations with the Palestinians.
In addition, American Jewish leaders
– presumably led by AIPAC – must as a priority, launch a major campaign to
reinforce the traditional pro-Israeli attitude relationship of the Democratic
party. Such a course of action would have been equally imperative had Romney
At a grass roots level there is now unquestionably a
growing far-left minority emerging within the Democratic party which is
indifferent and, in many cases, out-rightly hostile to Israel. It received a
boost from the Obama administration when it sought to distance itself from
Israel in order to appease the Arabs.
These trends were accelerated by
agitation from Jews bitterly opposed to the Israeli government, as exemplified
by Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of J Street, who claims to have a better understanding
of what is good for Israel than Israelis themselves, and Peter Beinart, who is
adored by the liberal media and calls for a global boycott of Israeli
Ignoring the fact that today, subject to the Palestinians
recognizing Israel’s security needs, a consensus prevails in Israel favoring a
two-state policy – these Jews have been continuously trying to persuade elements
within the Democratic party that Israel is the intransigent party and the
obstacle to achieving a peace settlement in the Arab-Israeli
The growing influence of anti-Israeli factions within the
Democratic party was evident in the course of the party’s recent National
Convention with the deletion of positive references to Israel which had
traditionally been incorporated in the conference declaration. It was also
highlighted dramatically by the chilling and unprecedented booing which greeted
the reinsertion of a section recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s
The reinforcement of bipartisanship toward Israel is crucial,
because if elements hostile to Israel become dominant or even influential among
either of the two mainstream parties, it would undermine one of the strongest
foundations sustaining the US-Israel alliance.
That the majority of Jews
continued to support Obama in the elections should strengthen the ability of
Democrats seeking to marginalize the anti-Israeli elements and restore the
standing of Israel in the Democratic party.
We may be facing difficult
times. But we must remain optimistic in the knowledge that the United States is
a democracy. As long as public opinion continues to support Israel, the
relationship between both countries may, as in the past, undergo strains and
stresses, but will remain intact.
The writer’s website can be viewed at
www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at