A winner either way

Regardless of who wins the 2012 US presidential election, the ties between America and the Jewish state will remain strong.

US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Perhaps more than any previous election in the United States, the 2012 presidential race has seen attempts to turn Israel into a partisan issue.
Democrats have accused Republicans of being “bad for Israel” because they would refrain from pushing for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. The resulting diplomatic stalemate would perpetuate the status quo, endangering both the Jewish majority and Israel’s democracy in the process, they say.
Republicans, meanwhile, have attacked Democrats for not supporting Israel’s interests in Jerusalem, on Iran and in negotiations with the Palestinians. Democrats have countered that repeated attacks on President Barack Obama’s policies vis-à-vis Israel threaten to turn the Jewish state into a wedge issue.
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The Shalom Hartman Institute’s Yossi Klein Halevi and The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg have voiced concerns that if Mitt Romney is elected, there is a real chance that the anti-war movement would be re-energized. Romney, if he were to decide to use military power to stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear bomb, would be accused of continuing the policies of George Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This could, in Halevi’s words “dangerously erode the already-shaky nature of bipartisan support for Israel.”
According to Goldberg, if this happens, American liberals will be tempted to put supporters of Israel “in the same category they reserve for climate-change-denying, anti-choice Obamacare haters.” It is absolutely essential that support for Israel continue to remain a bipartisan issue regardless of who is elected the next president.
After all, the close ties that exist between the US and Israel are hardly new. Their roots extend back further even than Israel’s establishment 64 years ago. Over two centuries ago, America’s founding fathers were inspired by the Bible, and many considered themselves to be the creators of a “New Israel.”
Likewise, Israel’s founders cherished the same values enshrined in the US Constitution – free speech and assembly, respect for individual rights, an independent judiciary.
Unlike the vast majority of countries throughout the world, where national identity is inexorably tied to blood and land, Israel and America are two of the few countries – New Zealand and Australia also come to mind – where covenant preceded nationhood.
A group of people united by shared ideals and vision arrived in a land in which they were not born to create a nation and realize a dream. In the case of Israel, it was a “coming home” after nearly two millennia of exile. In the case of America, it was the creation of a “New Israel.”
To this day, America and Israel share common interests and goals. Israel is the only Middle Eastern state to consistently stand alongside the US on strategic issues. In the ongoing regional upheaval, Israel is the only stable state on which the US can completely rely. And the two countries cooperate in a broad range of nonmilitary fields – humanitarian, commercial and scientific. The levels of freedom enjoyed in Israel are unparalleled in the Middle East, and America remains a beacon of liberty for the entire world. The vast majority of Americans understand this.
Testimony to this bipartisan affinity was the Congress’s repeated standing ovations – 29 in all, according to ABC News – for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he addressed a packed House chamber of both Republicans and Democrats in May 2011.
Both Romney and Obama are products of American society. That’s why both intimately understand and appreciate American’s special relationship with Israel.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was right on Tuesday when he stressed that Israel would continue to enjoy American backing irrespective of who won election.
Interviewed on Israel Radio, Ayalon said: “We will continue to enjoy bipartisan support in the US, so the result of the election almost doesn’t matter.”
For Israel, he added, “the best American president is the president who will be best for America. The one whom the Americans elect.”
Regardless of who wins the 2012 US presidential election, the ties between America and the Jewish state will remain strong. The two countries have too much in common and too much to gain from their special relationship to allow petty partisan differences to drive a wedge between them.