Within days, Hurricane Sandy and all its devastation will be featured less prominently on front page headlines, to be replaced by a rapid countdown to next week’s Presidential election.
There is no consensus over who is slated to win. Even reliable polls are largely out of sync with each other. Unexpected events and the three debates have never failed to bring continued new elements to the table.
For the President, the hurricane was a political blessing, as Americans tend to unite around their sitting leaders during times of crisis. More importantly, the graphic imagery of wholesale devastation has forced the emerging and ever evolving debacle, over the Administration’s handling of the September 11th terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, from national focus.
For many around the world, there has been continued concern over President Obama’s attitude towards Israel, which at times has been overtly hostile. Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit described it thusly in an interview on Israeli TV last year; “The rage that Barack Obama expresses towards Binyamin Netanyahu and the State of Israel is a raging fury.”
I have no doubt that Shavit is right when he says that “If Barack Obama is elected…There will immediately be a very strong attack and Israel will find itself in a very sharp crisis. Because right now…Obama is…like a lion in a cage.”
To estimate the steps that Obama might take towards Israel, with his last election behind him, his intent must be judged based on his past actions and sentiments expressed. The President has been clear about his opinion on a number of matters relating to Israel, and his current muted stance on the eve of Election Day, surely has no post-election staying power.
1.Obama believes that Israel is engaged in an illegal occupation, and that building anywhere beyond the 1948 armistice line is against international law.
2.He believes that the claims of Palestinian Arabs against Israel are generally legitimate.
3.He believes that the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state is necessary and important.
4.He believes that the term pro-Israel can be applied in a prescriptive fashion. What Israelis think is in their interests is not necessarily pro-Israel.
5.Obama believes that the pro-Israel community can be bought off by sending financial aid to Israel.
6.Obama believes in the power of public opinion and words, “daylight,” to steer public sentiment in favor of his policies.
When it comes to unrestricted sitting duck policy, these ideals can find damaging manifestation in a number of areas. For example, in a second term, Obama is likely to further the cause of Israel’s delegitimizers like none other before him, by aggressively and publically slamming any and all construction outside of pre-1967 Israel. It is unlikely that he would condemn anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations and I believe that he will not veto Palestinian Arab attempts at the UN towards a unilateral declaration of statehood.
On the whole, since 1974, once coming to the understanding that Israel could not easily be vanquished militarily; the Jewish state’s enemies have waged a war of accusation, seeking to isolate and diplomatically weaken the country to the extent that it is forced to significantly compromise its security.
A second Obama term would go a long way in furthering that agenda.
But in truth, the extent to which the sitting US President can impact affairs on the ground in Israel will be seen on January 22nd, when Israelis go to the polls. Israelis view the state of the US-Israel relationship as vitally important, and typically Prime Ministers who are viewed as having jeopardized that relationship have difficulty staying in power.
If President Obama is re-elected, and Israeli voters veer leftward, Zionism will fall into regression.
If however, the new Lieberman-Netanyahu coalition marks significant gains, and especially if winning a Knesset majority, the country will enter a troublesome adolescent stage in its relationship with the US. Perhaps Israel the adult will emerge and embark on an independent new path.
If Mitt Romney wins, and Israel’s left is voted into power, we will see a repeat of the Olmert-Bush years, where Israel makes grand offers and gestures to the PA, only to face rebuff after rebuff.
If a sweep of Israel’s nationalist parties follows a Romney victory, the tide of Israel deligitimization will be stunted, and Israeli leaders will focus on building long terms security solutions for their citizens.