Thank God the U.S. election campaign is finally coming to an end. Fortunes of time, energy, waking hours, arguments, and cash have been wasted on the message. Thank God it's finally time to vote.
And thank you, Mr. Romney, for explaining why Jews should vote Obama.
When you accepted the Republican nomination for president, one line among many spoke volumes. It came in late August, just after former Bush administration speechwriter Noam Neusner wrote in the Forward national Jewish newspaper that you were "the real tikkun olam candidate," the one most likely to express the Jewish value of "healing the wounds of the world."
The next day, in your speech to your party convention, you explained the difference between your point of view and that of the president:
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans."
"And to heal the planet."
My promise is [PAUSE] to help you and your family."
Fair enough. In the climax of that same speech, you articulated a vision of the America you wanted to see take shape in the coming years:
"That united America will care for the poor and sick, will honor and respect the elderly and will giving a helping hand to those in need. That America is the best within each of us. That America we want for our children."
Thank you, governor. That America is exactly why Jewish people keep voting for the Democratic Party.
But you've given me other reasons as well. Many of America's most crucial foreign, diplomatic, and military policy challenges derive from the Middle East. America's security and its economic stability will depend on making the kinds of decisions that will make the Middle East, and, yes, Israel, more secure. On a range of crucial issues, the president has done that.
You told me as much, Mr. Romney, during your final debate with the president. On key questions of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the pusuit of Bin Laden, you were largely in agreement with what the Obama White House has done militarily and diplomatically.
Then there is Iran. One of the people who has listened closest to what you have had to say on Iran is Efraim Halevy, former director of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. And the Iranians are listening as well.
In the current polarized election climate, "Negotiating with Iran is perceived as a sign of beginning to forsake Israel. That is where I think the basic difference is between Romney and Obama," Halevy said in a recent interview. "What Romney is doing is mortally destroying any chance of a resolution without war."
"It is not as if, if he wins the election, and gets into the White House, he can back up. The Iranians are listening attentively to what he says. When he says, he would arm the opposition in Iran. They understand."
Halevy, who believes in keeping a powerful military option at the ready, says that “The Iranians, in their heart of hearts, would like to get out of their conundrum. The sanctions have been very effective. They are beginning to really hurt.”
“Obama does think there is still room for negotiations,” he concludes. “It’s a very courageous thing to say in this atmosphere. In the end, this is what I think: Making foreign policy on Iran a serious issue in the U.S. elections - what Romney has done, in itself — is a heavy blow to the ultimate interests of the United States and Israel."
People are listening carefully to what you have to say, Mr. Romney. And, as my colleague Mairav Zonszein has shown, Obama's dedication to liberal values and to Israel's future has won the trust and endorsement of a range of prominent figures in the Jewish community, among them Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz and Ed Koch, who have criticized the president in the past.
And then there's the question of peace in the Holy Land. In that last debate, Mr. Romney, you were right to ask why Obama had not done more to advance negotiations toward an Israeli-Palestinian solution ("Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven’t had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we need to have.")
But other statements you've made indicate that a quiet, implied, well-financed commitment to settlements may outweigh a desire on your part for a solution based on territorial compromise.
Haaretz: Are Israel’s settlements legal or illegal? Should Israel build more of them or dismantle them?
Mitt Romney: “I am afraid that any discussion of settlements would lead me into waters of showing a distance between me and the president. That will not be appropriate for me to do while on foreign soil.”
When you spoke to donors in May, you told them that your solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question would be to "kick the ball down the field" and wait for something to resolve the problem.
When you said that, you were telling us, as well, that you are not the person for the job.
On issue after issue, you've as much as told us that Barack Obama is.
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