Middle Israel: Who do we want in the White House?

Jews have long been in the habit of seeking potential anti-Israeli and anti-Semite in any US election.

amotz asa el 88 (photo credit: )
amotz asa el 88
(photo credit: )
At this writing, on the eve of Super Tuesday, the choice US voters will face in their next presidential election has yet to emerge, yet the timeless question is already on thousands of lips from Brooklyn to Dimona: Who will be best for the Jews? In their obsession for a definitive choice, some dig for the candidates' public statements, others probe their executive records, some dwell on their social circle and yet others on biographical origins. Middle Israelis find all this anachronistic at best, neurotic at worst: not because there are no differences between the candidates when it comes to our concerns, but because the days when the resident of the Oval Office was in a position to raise or lower his thumb, and thus decide our fate, are long gone. Jews have long been in the habit of seeking the potential anti-Israeli, and if possible anti-Semite, in any American election, and there was never a shortage of candidates for such distinction. Never mind that many of those originally assumed to be "bad for us," from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, later proved even more pro-Israeli than the average American Jew; it just went without saying that somebody out there had to be after us, and that once elected he would possess some very effective tools, and good reasons, to kick us where it hurts. And so, many now say it's a great shame that Rudy Giuliani's out. Remember, they say, how he came here and took bus rides through Jerusalem in the very days when suicide bombers were habitually blowing them up? Or his barring Arafat from attending a concert at Lincoln Center? And his defiance of terror after 9/11? Wouldn't he have been great for us? Well, they sigh, at least he was beaten by John McCain, a gutsy fighter pilot no less anti-them and pro-us than old Rudy; which is so much more, they add, than can be said about Hillary, whose smooching with Suha they never forgot, or Obama, whose ostensibly quasi-Muslim semi-ancestry is to them about as disqualifying as a Jewish third cousin was for an aspiring Nazi. Well, we've got news for all these: To us, the right candidate should not be judged by what he or she says or doesn't say about us. EVEN IF Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh now became US president and VP, what would they do to us? Assemble an Evian Conference, like Roosevelt did, where all the nations of the world would compete in explaining why they wouldn't welcome Hitler's intended victims? There are no oppressed Jewish communities anywhere in the world anymore. Make us retreat from Sinai, the way Eisenhower did in '57? We already left Sinai, Lebanon and Gaza, too. Threaten to cut US aid to us, the way Gerald Ford did in 1975? The days when that aid was 20 percent of our national product are prehistory; we live in the times of Ben Bernanke, when the dollar is about as popular as Amir Peretz, the shekel is as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar, and US aid to Israel hardly 2% of our GDP, and even that is in America's interest - as it keep thousands of Americans employed - no less than it is in ours. Not only has Washington got little to threaten Israel with, there is also little it can demand of us that we haven't already done. Israel has recognized the PLO, accepted the idea of Palestinian statehood, offered concessions in Jerusalem, given land for peace and also ceded land for nothing. What else can a US president show us in this ongoing striptease show that we haven't yet seen? In fact, one may wonder whether the American presidential election matters at all. Maybe the historic forces at play are larger than all these candidates put together, just like some historians are likely to argue in the future about the Bush administration's apparent failure to change history's course in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks? Well that's exactly it. MIDDLE ISRAELIS would urge American voters to ask themselves not which candidate has released more pro-Israeli platitudes, attended more bar mitzvas and eaten more gefilte fish, but which candidate stands the best chance to restore America's geopolitical stature. Which one will reverse the dollar's depreciation, which resident of the Oval Office will have the vision and the authority with which to cut America's deficits, and which one will best elicit fear in America's enemies and win the respect of its friends. The common Jewish tendency to ask "but is he good for the Jews?" harks back centuries. During the Middle Ages a Jewish community's fate really could turn overnight from ideal to calamitous and vice versa, with the abrupt arrival or departure of this or that king, baron, preacher or warlord. And the more Jews lived that way, the more it seemed to them natural that their fate was in other people's hands, while their own task was to pray, hope, lobby, beg and - when relevant - bribe. Under such circumstances, Jews seldom critiqued, let alone sought to shape, the power structures that governed the world they inhabited. Like Anatevka's rabbi, they prayed that God would bless the czar and keep him as far from them as possible. Now, though finally independent, armed and prosperous, some among us are still mentally in Anatevka. It's time they realized we Jews are now historic actors in our own right, and as such clearly positioned, along with scores of other countries, within the international system's American-led camp. As such, we must focus on this camp's success as a camp, not as a provider for our particular cause, and back the presidential candidate who will be the most fearless, visionary and resolute leader of the free world, regardless of Israel. The rest will take care of itself.