PostScript: Mitt or ‘mittout’ Romney

Where has Obama’s America not supported us? Why the hatred and venom toward him?

By HIRSH GOODMAN
August 3, 2012 06:03
4 minute read.
Mitt Romney delivers speech in Jerusalem

Mitt Romney delivers speech in Jerusalem 370 (R). (photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)

 
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Mitt Romney comes to Israel for a few hours, speaks platitudes to a largely imported crowd against the backdrop of Jerusalem, mumbles something about Iran and collects a million bucks, rushes for a series of lighting photo-ops with appropriate Israelis and off again, this time to Poland.

He did not come here to learn the issues, understand the intricacies of the evolving Middle East or even receive an in-depth expert briefing on Iran. Grin, flash, platitude, applause, photo, insult the Palestinians and away we go.

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Romney was brought here by rich right-wing American Jews, some of whom have endlessly deep pockets and apparently think he’ll be better for the Jews and Israel than President Barack Obama. What gives them this notion is beyond me, as are their claims that a second Obama administration would be a disaster for Israel.

Obama is a bird in the hand with a proven record. True, from Israel’s perspective, there was a shaky start with the president’s initial outreach to the Arab world at the expense of Israel, and his unfortunate parallelism in comparing the plight of the Palestinians to the Holocaust.

But since then, what major and serious charges could be made against him and his relationship with Israel? Where has Obama’s America not supported us? Why the hatred and venom toward him? And why believe Mitt Romney, who has never had to deliver, or has delivered, a thing in terms of Israel? I am not for Mitt Romney or against him. I am not an American and America’s domestic agenda is not my issue, but like the right-wingers who brought Romney here, I care deeply about future American support for Israel, perhaps even more so since I have no other country to run to if things go wrong.

On the security-strategic level, few presidents have been more supportive than Obama, something even Binyamin Netanyahu will attest to, despite his criticism of Obama in other fields. And while it is true that he rushed to get pro- Israel legislation and funds through Congress while Romney was here for his photo-op, the president’s gestures were consistent with his policies until now, not empty or contrived for the moment.

Israel would not have an Iron Dome system were it not for this administration, nor would Iran be under the heavy international sanctions it now faces, with an administration sworn to prevent it from going nuclear.

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Why throw all this to the dogs and go with an unknown quantity who, in the best case, will take months to get up to speed enough to even consider bombing the Iranians, and whose election could only serve to give the Iranians the very commodity they so desperately want: time.

I doubt whether many papers in the world have allowed so much anti- Obama sentiment on their pages as this one. And while a recent editorial stopped short of endorsing Romney, which would have been a weird thing for an Israeli paper to do, it essentially did exactly that, endorsed Romney and cast a shadow over the incumbent’s relationship with Israel.

I wish I could share the sentiment, but to me Romney comes across as a synthesis of George Bush Sr., Zbigniew Brzezinski and Caspar Weinberger, none of whom liked us very much and whose support for Israel was about as deep as ice in the Caribbean.

I don’t say this will be the case with Romney, but who knows? Other seemingly pro-Israel Republicans have turned out problematic for Israel in the past, including the supposedly empathetic Reagan administration, and who can count how many times we have heard that “when I’m president, I’ll move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.”

Let’s be frank. Not even extreme rightwingers in Israel have real complaints about Obama’s security policies toward Israel, but they hate his anti-settlement policy, nothing less. They hate his dedication to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem, even though this is the official policy of the Israeli government, and seem to be inured to his strategic and diplomatic outreach to Israel in almost every way.

But what makes everyone so sure, including America’s Jews, that Romney will have any policy other than one dedicated to a two-state solution, or why he will support Israel’s interests when those around him feel that doing so will not be in America’s interests.

Romney is essentially an isolationist and wants to diminish the role of government in people’s lives and drastically cut government spending. Neither of these goals for America bode particularly well for Israel or its aid package.

And, at the end of the day, no matter what is said for the cameras and campaign ads against the setting sun on Jerusalem’s stone walls, America’s interests will, correctly, always come first, with Romney or without Romney.

I don’t think Israelis should be involved in the American election. It is the job of our government to work with whomever gets voted in, and build on the shared interests between the two countries. If right-wing American Jews want to prop up Romney’s chances of getting the Jewish vote by schlepping him and a plane full of supporters to Jerusalem, so be it.

We should all be aware, however, that while support for Romney will dissipate into thin air if he loses the election, Obama will be the next president. We all may want to be a little careful as to how we tread and more selective in some of the vitriol we use against Obama, who is said to have thin skin and the memory of an elephant.

Hirsh Goodman is a writer who lives in Jerusalem. His most recent book, The Anatomy of Israel’s Survival, won the National Jewish Book Award in the history category in 2012.

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