U.S. Elections / Next president won't fulfill Israel's fantasies
New president will pay lip service to Israel, but his real task will be fixing the American economy.
It's the ultimate leftist fantasy. After being elected president of the United States on Tuesday, Barack Obama places the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at the top of his agenda. A senior presidential envoy, say, Vice President Joe Biden, is dispatched to the region and does not leave until both sides' leaders sign an agreement to divide the land and to form a Palestinian state.
Obama breaks loose from the Jewish lobby's terror and gives Israel an ultimatum: No more financial aid or political support until Israel dismantles all its settlements and roadblocks, and withdraws to the agreed-upon borders.
Israel then returns to its 1967 borders, an independent Palestine consolidates its control next door and the right wing is forced to admit it was wrong.
The rightist fantasy would have John McCain elected. He then places the annihilation of the Iranian nuclear program, along with Islamist terrorism, at the top of his agenda. Hundreds of fighter jets devastate Iran's nuclear facilities along with Iran's government buildings, military bases and oil refineries. A special force apprehends Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and brings him to the International Court of Justice.
Israel is brought in to help defeat Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south. Having left the adversaries sorely defeated, McCain announces that Israel will forever remain within "defendable borders," retaining control of the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Gaza - which has just been retaken. Millions of American Jews immigrate to Israel to populate the settlements as the two-state vision is shelved, forcing the left wing to acknowledge its failure.
Neither fantasy will materialize. The new U.S. president will pay the required lip service - he will announce his support for the "two-state solution" and criticize the Iranian nuclear drive. He will express his hopes that the tense quiet will continue in the Middle East, and that a new war will not break out. He will focus on his main task: reviving the American economy and rescuing the global economy from the crisis.
The Israeli government's main objective will be to support this process, and to avoid making too much noise or getting into conflicts. There are four issues on the agenda regarding Israel's relationship with the U.S.: the peace process and related matters, the Iranian nuclear program, military aid, and the weapons control initiatives.
Each of these issues may beget disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington, but they also hold potential for international cooperation and achievements.
If Obama is elected, he will become part of the Israeli election campaign. Tzipi Livni will try to convince voters that Benjamin Netanyahu is bound to get into a serious confrontation with the American administration because of his resistance to the peace process and his support for striking Iran. Netanyahu will try to persuade constituents that his firm positions on these issues will help him negotiate a better deal with the new administration.
A win for McCain would have less impact over here.
Another question is the matter of appointments. If Obama wins, and appoints the old Clinton peace team - as some expect him to do - he will be signaling that he subscribes to Bill Clinton's interventionist approach. If he opts to keep them out of the game, he will be signaling that he is in no hurry to step between Israel and the Palestinians.
But even if Obama does decide to step in, he will discover how difficult it is to reap quick rewards from the Palestinian negotiating table, because of the split between the West Bank and Gaza.
The Syrian channel seems more promising, and Obama seems more open to dialogue with Bashar Assad. At any rate, it seems implausible for the new president to find the time to reach an agreement while tending to the financial issues at hand.