Savir's Corner: Obama’s America

Barack Obama’s 2012 election victory is no less significant than his first election as an African-American to the US’s highest office in 2008.

US President Barack Obama 370 (photo credit: Jason Reed/Reuters)
US President Barack Obama 370
(photo credit: Jason Reed/Reuters)
Barack Obama’s 2012 election victory is no less significant than his first election as an African-American to the US’s highest office in 2008. The reelection of Obama, despite the American economic crisis, is testament that the majority of Americans have internalized and normalized the historic social breakthrough of 2008.
The 2012 election was a true reflection of a new America, of which Obama is a son and a leader: an America that is less “white,” less conservative, less built on pure capitalism and less monolithic, also in its elite.
A wave of American multiculturalism has kept Obama in power – a coalition of minorities and up-and- comers, young Americans, women, African- Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Jews, all struggling for the fulfillment of the American dream.
The young seek good education and jobs, women aspire for equal rights, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians seek integration and economic growth, Jews want to express their cultural identity.
What binds together this heterogeneous group is a basic belief in equality, equal opportunity and fundamental freedoms. A new coalition with a diversity of backgrounds, bound by the roots of the American system – the values of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights – and by a common view of a different future, of a new social mosaic, and mainly of new opportunities.
Obama was virulently opposed by the right-wing conservative coalition of the wealthy champions of Wall Street who in the past also controlled the political scene, the Donald Trumps and Sheldon Adelsons, the Evangelist followers of Reverend Billy Graham, with their tacit belief in white supremacy, in the conservative family values of agrarian America against minority rights and immigration and women’s rights (including abortion), and by the right-wing media, spearheaded by Fox News, Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda tool.
The election campaign was not just a $2 billion extravaganza of endless television advertisements, it was mostly a clash of two coalitions holding two very different views of America – one that emphasizes the country as a gift from heaven for the successful, diligent and wealthy; the other one placing the citizen at its center, a citizen with equal rights and obligations, with tolerance for the different, with empathy for the needy, wishing mostly for equal opportunity.
Mitt Romney and the Grand Old Party were considered in the various exit polls as out of touch with middle class Americans. Indeed they are out of touch with a changed America – an America in which immigrants blend into society and aspire to equal rights and opportunities; an America that is not so dominated by Wall Street and Hollywood, but is more characterized by small business and multiculturalism, with roots not just emanating from the Mayflower, but also from Africa, Latin America and Asia.
It is now up to President Obama, who not only reflects the new America, but leads and represents all Americans, to build bridges between the past and the future, between Left and Right, between Wall Street and Main Street, as well as between America and the world. It is also up to him to prove to the world that the new America is the leader of a changing world, given the worldwide applause for his reelection.
First Obama needs to create a unifying platform for a polarized America, which implies more than a dialogue with Republicans in Congress. In the aftermath of a fierce election campaign, it is up to the winner to legitimize the losing side. The divide between the conservative South and Middle America and the more liberal East and West Coasts goes far back and is deep and fundamental. In a way, the challenge for Obama is to create a new common narrative of a future America, more multicultural and less Anglo-Saxon in its nature and yet still joined by a common belief in America and the values of its Founding Fathers.
A major requirement for a more united America pertains to the socioeconomic cure for the ailing and indebted economy. For economic recovery, Obama needs to work out a big compromise with the Republican and Democratic leaderships in Congress to pass a balanced budget while cutting defense expenditure, enacting tax reform to further tax the wealthy and end the Bush tax cuts, stimulating the private sector and creating jobs for the middle class and the young, and tackling the dangerous deficit and avoiding the fiscal cliff. Both sides of the American political divide, listening to the vox populi, know that they have to restore lost credibility by being less partisan and finding a delicate balance between a desired level of government intervention and the leading role of the private sector.
On the foreign affairs front, together with a new secretary of state, Obama will seek continuity as well as change. He will pursue his view of American leadership through international coalition building and collective diplomacy. The key partners, and the most difficult ones, will be Beijing (under the new leadership of Xi Jinping) and Moscow, both out to bolster their superpower posture, yet both with national interests to preserve international stability.
The central international challenge to American interests is the wider Middle East region in relation to the spread of fundamentalism, terrorism and nuclear proliferation, the ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear and terrorist ambitions, the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the Syrian crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. American interests and ambitions in the region are strongly linked to democratization, economic development, oil supply and peace.
The biggest obstacle and affront to American strategic interests in the region is Iran because of its fundamentalism, terrorism and development of nuclear weapons. Obama clearly indicated that he prefers diplomacy over the use of force, which is only to be used as a last resort. One can assume therefore that the P5+1 negotiations will soon turn into one plus five, with Washington taking the lead in possible secret negotiations with the Iranian government.
In parallel, Obama will continue to lead the international coalition in furthering the crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy. At some point, he may put a package on Tehran’s table, offering the lessening of the sanctions, even an opening by the West, in return for Iran demonstrating, without any doubt, that it is putting an end to its military nuclear program.
In 2014, the administration will bring the last American soldiers back home from Afghanistan while empowering the Afghan security forces to fight the Taliban and fulfill Obama’s commitment to put an end to the two wars he inherited. The war on terror will continue, mainly against al-Qaida, in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa, while simultaneously assisting these regions economically.
President Obama aspires to better relations with the Muslim world – weakening the spread of fundamentalism and terrorism, and strengthening democratic nation-building in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Already in his 2009 Cairo speech, he understood that he has to address the young of the region, their aspirations and cultural characteristics.
Obama favors democratization, yet understands that American-style democracy cannot be imposed on the Arab world, or elsewhere for that matter.
There is little doubt that with time, after the January election in Israel, the Obama II administration will make the Israeli-Palestinian peace process a priority, based on the vision expressed in his 2011 State Department speech. During his last term, he would like to see a democratic, demilitarized State of Palestine established, while at the same time also strengthening strategic relations with Israel, making an anti-Iran coalition more possible and effective.
Yet both of us, Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the rest of the region, must understand that we are dealing with a leader of a different America. An America that espouses in its young “Obama generation” the values of democracy, human rights, multiculturalism and equality, and it is up to us in the region to work with this changed America.
While there is a school of thought that American clout in the world as the leading superpower will diminish, I believe the reverse is true, provided that its economy stabilizes and grows. In the connected world of today’s information and technology age, where there is an aspiration on all continents for democratization, youth empowerment, good education and economic growth, the values and multiculturalism that President Obama represents are a necessity for the United States to preserve its position as leader of the free world. A more monolithic, elitist and condescending America, like under George Bush Jr., would be rejected in great parts of the world.
As for Israel, the reelection of Barack Obama is a great opportunity for us. He is a friend of Israel and has done more than his predecessors for security and intelligence relations with us. More important, we are in need – strategically, politically and morally – of peace; and the chances for a viable process have grown since the morning of November 7.
A president who is good for America and good for peace is also good for Israel. Tell this to Binyamin Netanyahu who put all his chips, together with his and Romney’s godfather, Sheldon Adelson, on the wrong candidate. This is detrimental to Israel as personal relationships between leaders do count.
Netanyahu even harmed relations with American Jewry, as it was always perceived in the United States that American Jews follow the advice of the Israeli prime minister. Yet 70 percent of US Jewry voted for Obama and not for the candidate perceived as our prime minister’s friend. With time, this intervention in American policies by Israel’s prime minister will damage our national interests if, as expected, the “Biberman” ticket is reelected in January.
As many times predicted in this column, Barack Obama will be inaugurated on January 21 for four more years. All peace-seeking people must wish him well in leading a new America and a changing world, facing formidable challenges. This America is a well-deserved leader of the free world, proving with these elections, despite political bickering, its true democratic colors – from mass campaign rallies on both sides, some with Bruce Springsteen, making young Americans proud to be “Born in the USA,” to the substantive debates, where both candidates treated their constituencies with respect for their intelligence and knowledge; from the impressive concession speech of Governor Romney, praying for Obama’s success – only in America – to the brilliant acceptance speech by Barack Obama, emphasizing equality between all Americans, whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, men, women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, Democrats and Republicans.The writer is president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.