Why Obama is still the best option for Israel

Israelis may be fed up with Obama-drama, but that's no reason to be smitten with Mitt.

US President Barack Obama at press conference 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
US President Barack Obama at press conference 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
More and more Israelis are starting to show support for Republican candidate Mitt Romney to succeed Barack Obama as US president. But rather than being smitten with Mitt on his own merits, it seems that Israelis are supporting him simply because they are fed up with Obama’s drama.
Critics berate President Obama on a number of issues: for failing to authorize an immediate Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, for suggesting the 1967 lines as the basis for two-state solution negotiations, for his seemingly devout indifference to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
From an Israeli perspective, Obama is seen as far too fickle to be an American president and his allegiances are questionable: he announces impractical policy changes without first consulting his Israeli counterpart; he quotes the Koran during speeches in Egypt; he bows to Saudi kings. The list could go on. 
In Romney, Israelis see everything Obama is not: a shining, unapologetic, “severe” conservative who will swing any way the right-wing will take him. Romney reverses any of his political views that do not fall in line with the far Right agenda of the Republican Party. And taking into account the fact that Israel’s most ardent supporters are in this category, it is easy to see why Israel favors the Right. 
However, it is important to understand that most of this support is based on the perceived notion that a Republican administration is somehow a more secure, responsible ally to Israel. Israel must realize that the US will always be a devout Israeli ally, no matter who sits in the Oval Office. Every American candidate knows that any public statement that criticizes Israel is tantamount to political suicide and Obama knows this too.
While many of the criticisms directed at him are justified, Obama has nevertheless shown steady support for Israel throughout his first term: He supported Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2009, he provided funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, he the Goldstone report, and has collaborated with Israeli intelligence on large scale cyber operations.
Nonetheless, Israelis and Republicans alike have accused the president of bullying Israel. Yet, Israel must take its abysmal reputation into consideration: Far more dangerous to Israel than a “bully” US president would be a president that – for right or wrong – is perceived as a bully towards the Palestinians or Arabs in general. Yes, Obama may have been naïve regarding Arab intentions, but Romney’s bombastic rhetoric may force the Arabs to leave the negotiating table permanently and push Israel into an even tighter corner. Romney’s speeches do little more than provide an ego massage for Israel and its supporters. Israelis do not need a US president to pat them on the back and shower them with empty praise.
Israelis must also keep in mind that Romney will not be elected because of his foreign policy. If Romney were to win the election, it would be for one reason only: the American people believe that he is the man to fix the ailing US economy. His election would be based on domestic, not international concerns. All other issues, including Israel, would be put on the backburner. 
President Obama, on the other hand, realizes that he has no choice but to take a proactive role in the Mideast peace process during his second term. During his first term in office – when he wasn’t fending off relentless Republican obstruction – Obama focused on domestic concerns, such as the economy and healthcare. In a recent interview, Obama listed his inability to move the Mideast peace process forward as one of the biggest disappointments of his first term; Obama added that the two parties “have to want it as well.” Following years of saccharine admiration that the Right has thrown at Israel over the years, Obama's honesty in admitting his mistake makes for a refreshing change in party rhetoric.
While four years of office have diminished his transformative flare, the president still has the charisma and respect to bring people together, and this is something that Romney severely lacks, as demonstrated by his recent gaffes. Obama has shown support for both sides, and as such could still act as an intermediary between Israel and the Palestinians. While Palestinians are not eager to place their trust in Obama, they still find him far more appealing than Romney.
A president Romney would be a polarizing figure on the world stage, pitting the US and Israel against the world. If Romney were to win the presidency, he would continue to make spurious statements in support of Israel that will never lead to actual progress or action. As a result, tensions between Israel and its neighbors will grow even worse and consequently both the US and Israel will sink even deeper into the ditch of international resentment. While Americans might be content with basking in a false sense of superiority, Israelis, on the other hand, must consider their world image in order to survive and thrive as a nation.
Israelis mustn’t fall for Romney’s sycophancy. Obama might not be the man to advance peace in the region, but of the two, he is far more likely to initiate and broker peace. To put it bluntly, under a president Romney peace is simply unattainable. On the contrary, under a second-term President Obama, at the very least peace remains a possibility.
The writer is an American studying Literature at Florida State University and is working as an intern with the Jerusalem Post this summer.