Candidly Speaking: An election of great import for Israel
Irrespective who becomes the next president of the USA, American Jewish leaders must seek to reverse the growing threat from the far Left anti-Israeli activists in the Democratic party and reinvigorate the bipartisan spirit which has been so vital to maintain the strong US-Israel relationship.
Romney, Obama point at each other during debate Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar
Next week’s US presidential election will have major implications for the entire
western world, but in particular for Israel. It is also noteworthy that Israel
and the Jews have never featured so prominently in a presidential campaign. In
last week’s debate on foreign policy between President Barack Obama and Governor
Mitt Romney, both candidates competed to demonstrate their pro-Israel
credentials and the Jewish state was mentioned no less than 34
Until six weeks ago there was an emerging consensus shared by
supporters and opponents alike, that Romney had failed to make an impact and
that Obama would be reelected. Yet since the first dramatic debate, the upsurge
in support for Romney has been extraordinary, and if the polls reflect reality,
the outcome could be a real cliff-hanger.
Of course, opinion polls can be
misleading. The complexity of the Electoral College voting system does
not necessarily grant victory to the candidate receiving the majority of
votes. The even more critical factor is whether those who actually vote
will proportionately adhere to the same trends as those initially
Not surprisingly, many Israelis will be hoping for a Romney win.
Despite Obama’s ongoing commitment to providing Israel with military aid and his
more recent positive policies towards Israel, it is no secret that he personally
loathes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Most Israelis are fearful that
if reelected, no longer needing a charm offensive to garner Jewish support,
Obama is likely to repeat the pattern of his first term when he unashamedly
reneged on many of his previous undertakings towards Israel.
concerned that he will revert to his earlier policy of “adopting daylight
between Israel and the US” and will renew pressure on the Jewish state to make
further unilateral concessions towards the Palestinians. There is fear that he
will again insist that the indefensible 1949 armistice lines be considered as
the opening benchmark for negotiating borders and will also press for the
division of Jerusalem.
Romney, in contrast, enjoys a cordial personal
relationship with Netanyahu. More importantly he also seems to display a
far more positive attitude towards the Jewish state. One of his major criticisms
of the administration’s foreign policy has been Obama’s alleged abandonment and
continuous public chastisement and humiliation of Israel.
blames Israeli settlement policies – including home construction in east
Jerusalem’s Jewish suburbs – for the impasse with the Palestinians, Romney says
plainly that peace will be unattainable until the Palestinians genuinely abandon
their objective of destroying the Jewish state.
As to Iran,
notwithstanding undertakings to do all that is necessary to prevent them from
becoming a nuclear power, should sanctions fail to bring about tangible results
there are grave doubts as to whether Obama would be willing to take the tough
measures required. However, should Romney be elected, while presumably providing
notice of tougher intentions, during his first months in office he too would be
unlikely to immediately initiate drastic military action.
There is a vast
chasm between the approaches of both candidates in relation to the Arab world,
which is increasingly falling under more extreme Islamic and jihadist influences
and where use of the terms Islamic extremism or Islamic terrorism are even
Despite having eliminated Osama bin Laden, the Obama
administration has, as a matter of course, appeased Islamists by initially
resisting sanctions and failing to support the Iranian dissidents seeking regime
Shortly after taking office, Obama infuriated the Mubarak
government by legitimizing the Muslim Brotherhood when he insisted that their
representatives occupy the front row at his inaugural speech in Cairo.
Furthermore, at the outset of protests in Egypt, he abandoned the authoritarian
President Hosni Mubarak, regarded as one of the strongest US allies in the Arab
Since then, his administration has consistently understated the
fanatical extremism of the Muslim Brotherhood and ignored the recent genocidal
exhortations against Israel by their newly elected Egyptian leader. The
groveling response to the terrorist upsurges in Libya and Egypt is another
indicator of the administration’s policy of Islamic appeasement.
also repeatedly publicly praised the dictatorial Islamist Turkish leader, Recep
Erdogan, who made himself popular in the Arab world by his anti-Israeli tirades
and efforts to impose boycotts and isolate the Jewish state.
four years in office, despite President Obama’s desperate efforts to appease and
“engage” the Islamists, the US today is more reviled in the Arab world than ever
The perception amongst most Israelis is that a Romney
administration would be more realistic and tougher towards the
However, in contrast, the majority of American Jews, clearly
loth to forfeit their liberal DNA, still support Obama and will continue voting
Democrat. Besides, like most Americans, economic policies are the
principal factors determining their vote.
This also partially reflects
the depressing reality that a large proportion of American Jews, especially the
more assimilated, no longer consider Israel a major priority when casting their
votes. Indeed, for many of the less committed Jews, issues like gay
marriage and abortion on demand seem to outweigh the wellbeing of the Jewish
On the other hand, there will undoubtedly be a substantial number
of Jewish defections from the Obama camp, with the more committed and Orthodox
Jewish segments voting heavily against the current president.
Minister Netanyahu has assiduously avoided engaging in the presidential
campaign. That has not prevented his political opponents from accusing him of
making Israel a “wedge” issue. Yet it would be inconceivable that due to the US
presidential election, an Israeli prime minister should remain silent on the
need to for the world to stand up and take tough action against a potentially
nuclear power publicly exhorting the world to support its objective of wiping
his country – “a cancer” – off the face of the planet. As Netanyahu said to CNN,
“I am being guided by the Iranian nuclear calendar not the American political
But Netanyahu would be less than human if privately he did not
yearn for a victory for Romney, who has been both a friend and ally.
however, Obama is reelected, Netanyahu will be obliged to try to overcome the
personal animosity and work with him, without compromising Israel’s security or
long-term strategic interests. This will not be easy but as long as grass roots
support for Israel remains strong and Congress does not abandon us, it is
possible. From his side Obama may have learnt that his bullying tactics only
strengthened public support for Netanyahu in Israel.
And if Romney wins,
Israelis should not be euphoric. Although Romney will undoubtedly have a better
chemistry with Israel than his predecessor, we still face tough challenges. And
we should bear in mind that whereas Romney is undoubtedly a friend, the track
records of Republican presidents toward Israel has also often been
Irrespective who becomes the next president of the USA,
American Jewish leaders must seek to reverse the growing threat from the far
Left anti-Israeli activists in the Democratic party and reinvigorate the
bipartisan spirit which has been so vital to maintain the strong US-Israel
The writer’s website can be viewed at
www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org