We can imagine a conversation, not too far from here, among people more important than us, about an Israeli attack on Iran and the American presidential election. Among the questions likely to be debated
- Will the attack lead Obama and Romney to compete in what they offer to Israel, with the incumbent ordering American forces to help Israel, or even to participate in the attack?
- Will the attack lead Obama and Romney to compete in expressing disappointment in Israel''s move, with the incumbent publicly ordering American forces to stay out of the fight, except to take defensive actions against the possibility of Iranian attacks?
- Will American public opinion move to endorse Israel''s action, to the extent of pressing the candidates to be more supportive, or will there be a prominent expression of opposition to Israeli action on account of its causing greater threats against the United States and American forces, and leading to the deaths of Americans?
Israeli media can lead one to think that Israel''s defense is already an important issue in the American campaign. A recent headline on Ha''aretz''s English language Internet edition, "Will Paul Ryan attract or alienate Jewish voters?" Israel Hayom headlined the advice to Obama of a former head of military intelligence: "Come to the Knesset and Make a Commitment: If Needed, We will Attack." The sub headline: quoted the same former official as saying, "Without a change in American policy, an Israeli attack is likely in the autumn." On the same page, the headline on an item by a prominent columnist, "We succeeded with pre-emptive strikes, and failed when we restrained ourselves." His example of restraint was Israel''s decision to please the United States by not striking first at the Egyptian forces assembling for their attack in 1973.
There is no parallel in American media for Israel''s preoccupations with itself and Iran. US coverage of the campaign focuses on the economy, including employment, growth, taxes, the size of government, and the deficit, plus health care, and a cluster of issues that have no parallels in other countries, but are hot-buttons for sizable numbers of Americans: same-sex marriage, abortion, and gun control. There is concern with the personal traits of the candidates, i.e., reliability, extremism, how much they have paid in taxes, and something about a dog. Terrorism, foreign policy, and Israel are in the mix, but American relations with Russia or China may be getting more attention than Israel.
These are still the hot days of August in both Israel and the United States. It''s a time for vacation, with those journalists actually working producing more commentary than hard news. Prominent--perhaps an obsession--in Israeli media is Iran, Israel''s relations with the United States, and the damage to national defense from a continued discussion of Israel''s options. It''s not hard to find retired senior military officers and office-holding politicians saying something like, "Listen to me, then stop the discussion. It''s dangerous to talk about this."
Labor Day is the traditional end of the American summer and the start of intensive presidential campaigning, along with other serious business. This year it coincides with the two major party conventions. Israel does not begin to work until "after the holidays," i.e., Rosh Hashana, Yom Kiippur, and Succoth. Given the mysteries of the Hebrew calendar, those end this year on October 7.
We may get guidance from II Samuel 11
"And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah"
Insofar as the year may be said to expire on the eve of Rosh Hashana (recognizing the arcane problem of multiple "New Years"), the end of the holidays will be "the time when kings go forth to battle." Iran''s nuclear facilities are further away than Ammon and Rabbah (ostensibly the site of Amman, Jordan), but Israeli forces no longer move by foot and donkey.