President Obama, a friend
As a general rule and ethical principle, Israelis should refrain from enunciating their preferences and defer the decision to American voters.
US President Obama with Mitt Romney at debate Photo: reuters / pool
I was asked by the editor to write an article in support of President Barack
Obama ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election in the United States. I will
not. I was asked to endorse Obama, to state the case for his reelection,
to provide a “pro-Obama” essay from an Israeli perspective. I could, but I
This is not because I think differently or am incapable of making
a compelling and convincing case for President Obama. I’d like to think I can,
and I genuinely think Obama has been a reliable friend of Israel. Like his
The reasons I will not indulge in this endeavor or add my
invaluable insights and numerous gems of wisdom stem from several imperatives:
First, Israelis should not meddle, interfere or express an opinion on who should
be the president of the United States. It concerns us, but it is just none of
our business to take sides.
Israelis are entitled to an opinion, entitled
to their passions, entitled to their sympathies or antipathies. What they
are not entitled to is to publicly choose a side and to follow it up with
advocacy and reasoning.
As a general rule and ethical principle, Israelis
should refrain from enunciating their preferences and defer the decision to
When I write “Israelis,” I don’t mean Mr. Cohen or Mrs.
Levy. The rule applies to official Israel, obviously not including the 7.6
million Israelis who know exactly what Israel and America need. This official
Israeli includes, first and foremost, the occupant of the Prime Minister’s
The second issue is more political than ethical. When Israelis
are inclined or encouraged to endorse President Obama or governor Mitt Romney
(or any other candidate in any other elections) the inevitable impetus and
reasoning behind it is the determination: “Who is better for Israel?” I question
the very premise of this. Before anyone can determine whether Obama/Romney is
“Good for Israel,” you need to define what exactly constitutes “Good for
Actually, you need to define “better” and to define “Israel.”
Such a definition is not only subjective, elusive and politically biased and
tainted. It is also impossible to formulate unless it is reduced to the lowest
Was Richard Nixon “Good for Israel”? Was Jimmy Carter
“Good for Israel”? What about George H.W. Bush (a.k.a. “41”)? In fact, why not
do a little improvised exercise: Get 10 American Jews and 10 Israeli Jews in a
room and ask them to list American presidents according to their “Good for
Israel” credentials and track records. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush
will surely figure prominently.
Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy
Carter and George H.W. Bush will not. But that is not a real reflection of their
policies and the quality of their contributions to the US alliance with
These four were not “Good for Israel.” They were “Great for
Says who? Says me, subjectively, says the historical record,
objectively, and says the empirical and impartial analysis of their cumulative
added-value to Israel’s security, diplomatically, politically, militarily,
technologically, economically and above all, strategically.
Israel’s real source of durable and enduring power in the US has always been the
bipartisan support in Congress and of whoever occupied the White House on 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue, Democrat or Republican. This bipartisanship is not a
cliche, nor is it a hollow bumper sticker used for political expediency. It is
real, and must be cherished, nurtured, safeguarded and never ever compromised on
transient political grounds. One certain way of breaching and violating it is to
declare that Obama or Romney is better for Israel. Keep Israel out. Always. This
US bipartisan consensus on Israel was always the source generating the necessary
support and providing the foundations of the “Unshakeable Alliance” between the
When Israel consciously inserts itself into US
presidential elections it is committing nothing short of slow-motion political
suicide. It is sacrilegious and dumb. When Israel is mentioned more than 25
times in a presidential debate it is a bad, cringe-inducing spectacle for anyone
who has ever been involved in the building, strengthening and maintenance of the
It is not because of Israel’s importance or
ubiquitous presence in the minds of American voters in Ohio or Virginia. It is
because Israel forced its way into the debate and superimposed itself on the
What is there to gain from that? What possible benefits or
tangible achievements can Israel reap? Now that I’ve made my points clear, and
unequivocally reasoned with you why none of us should get involved or mobilized
in the US elections, I feel I do have to emphasize an important issue lost in
the translation of US-Israeli politics.
President Barack Obama is a
friend of Israel. He has been a trusted ally when we needed the US to
veto anti- Israel resolutions in the UN Security Council. He has been an
attentive and reliable ally when we asked, and received, his consent and
approval to gain access and acquire state-of-the-art military technology. During
his tenure the level of intelligence-sharing, consultation and
assessmentexchange, particularly on Iran, has been unprecedented. Don’t ask me,
ask Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
When he says, “I’ve got Israel’s back” I
trust him. Why? because he was good on all his pledges and promises, because he
delivered everything Israel asked for, because his policy on terrorism, Iran and
the Arab world corresponds to Israel’s strategic outlook, even when there are
differences of emphasis or timetable.
Would Mitt Romney be the same? Most
definitely. Which is why Israel should not and is not an issue in these
The president of the United States of America is the president
of the United States of America. He is not the project-manager for the USIsraeli
relationship. So he didn’t visit Israel (neither did Thomas Jefferson, or George
W. Bush until his seventh year in office) or has a confrontational relationship
with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Get over it.
What matters, in fact the
only thing that matters, is the consolidation of our relations with
In this regard, Obama’s record is impeccable. So will Romney’s
be if he is elected. So I will not endorse anyone, nor should any other Israeli.
This is for Americans to decide and for us, uncharacteristically, to shut up for
The writer is a former Israeli consulgeneral in New York and a
Fellow at the Israel Policy Forum.