Comment: We can’t lose touch with America 2012

The crowd cheering Obama is a snapshot of the new US: diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-everything.

November 8, 2012 01:07
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama re-elected

US President Barack Obama 370. (photo credit: Jason Reed/Reuters)


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Two pictures tell a big story.

Two pictures that in one still, or streaming, moment illuminated why Barack Obama won reelection.

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There will be analysis ad nauseam of permanent or shifting coalitions, ultra-modern campaign technology and ingenuity, historical and political research, poll dissection and “insider story” exposes. But the two pictures, one from Chicago and the other from Boston, decoded everything.

If you look at the picture beamed from Chicago, of Obama’s cheering supporters, you see a snapshot of America 2012. Diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multieverything. The new America.

If you look at the picture from Boston, where Mitt Romney’s dejected supporters gathered, you see a relic. A picture of America, circa 1955. White, older, angry, one-dimensional.

You may like the first or you may cherish the second, but one thing is clear: This is America 2012. The Republican Party is at odds with it. It is living in dangerous denial, impairing its ability to ever win over durable majorities as long as it no longer has a strong moderate wing and is held hostage to extremists of various types.

Israel’s relations with the US are not merely an important part of our foreign policy. They are a pillar of Israel’s national security and constitute a deterrent and a force-multiplier. The US provides Israel not only with military platforms, intelligence sharing and access to state-of-the-art technology, but the informal alliance also guarantees a diplomatic safety net and partial protection from isolation and ostracism.

Essentially, Jerusalem’s relations with Washington are the greatest diplomatic-political-military-strategic achievement in Israel’s 64-year history, second only to the country’s ability to maintain its physical existence.

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Therefore, the worst thing that could happen to this alliance is for Israel to disconnect itself from those in the picture from Chicago, and assume that the basic tenets of the relationship will be sustained by those in the picture from Boston. Nothing is further from the truth.

In fact, Israel’s source of power in the US has always been a vibrant and involved Jewish community, bipartisan commitment and support and a commonality of strategic interests – whether they are Soviet influence in the Middle East, Islamic jihadist terrorism, regional instability or the nuclearization of Iran.

More than any other asset, relations have been predicated on an ever-cultivated dialogue based on trust, credibility and respect.

Which is why, when the prime minister is perceived to interfere in US elections, he is risking not only Israel’s credibility and his future relations with the president he had presumably hoped would be defeated, but also risking alienation from those in the Chicago picture.

They are the majority.

The Soviet Union no longer exists. The traditional justifications for the alliance subdued in the wake of two Gulf wars, the conflict in Afghanistan and the absence of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

New justifications have been expounded, but newer and different rationales need to be crafted. For that to happen, Israel cannot lose touch with America 2012.

Israel has never been the “strategic asset” it convinced itself of being, nor the liability its detractors try to characterize it as being. It has been and continues to be, a dependable ally.

What remains consistent and permanent is the simple fact that relations with the US are Israel’s strategic asset. One that should be dealt with prudently, and preferably not by ministers who in their infinite stupidity say – off the record obviously – that “the election result is not what we had hoped for. Netanyahu is in trouble.” Really smart.

The writer is a former Israeli consul-general in New York and a fellow at the Israel Policy Forum.

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