A black man in his early 50s beat a white man in his mid-60s on Wednesday. The winner was an incumbent president and the loser a former governor, the winner a Democrat and the loser a Republican. But the most important facet is demographic: the candidates' and their supporters' ethnicity, and especially their age.
There are not light years between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, but the difference is decisive. The (relatively) young beat the old, and not by chance - certainly not for the second successive time. In 2008, it was Obama in his fifth decade, and John McCain at the beginning of his eighth decade. In the war of the generations, the young win.
America is looking forward. With all due respect to past experience, the accumulated wisdom of veterans who brought it thus far, it prefers to build its future on the next generation.
This process in is not irreversible. A disaster, or the impression of continuing failure could present them as unripe, and temporarily return the steering wheel to older hands. Image is no less important than essence: Ronald Reagan the optimist overcame Jimmy Carter the pessimist, who was about 15 years younger. In Israel, the first transfer from the generation born in the 19th century, from Golda Meir to Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Allon and Shimon Peres, fell apart and ended in victory for Menachem Begin. Benjamin Netanyahu beat Peres, who was more than a quarter century older than he, but the disappointment in Netanyahu and Ehud Barak brought about the election of Ariel Sharon, despite that fact that he looked old, or maybe because of it.
The pendulum could swing again in the next election, from 63-year-old Netanyahu to others in their 50s. It depends on the new generation of voters, which is not a simple replication of its parents' generation.
The people of Israel look forward, like America did yesterday. There is a chance of surviving and thriving in the new world. The old policy, of which Netanyahu is the most fluent spokesman, has become bankrupt; it has no buyers.
American youth, who are finding their place in the world while being pushed on by millions of other young people, know the contemporary, negative Israel. Their parents, who were introduced to a pioneering Israel that dreamed of peace and equality, are losing their hold over the national leadership. The large minorities, the Blacks and Hispanics, identify more with those deprived. America yesterday demonstrated its ability to unite, at least for a moment. At the end of the campaign, Romney declared that the struggle is over, while Obama called to involve all parties and social groups. If Israel does not manage to update its policy, it will find a new America that is fed up with it.
This is a rare hour. Eroding reserves of good will still remain from the remnants of the generation of the economic crisis, Second World War and Israel's resurrection. The generation that grew up on Israel's settlements, dependency on American aid and rejection of a fair and secure compromise, has yet to assume the mantle of power.
From this derives the expectation that Obama will lead the push to thwart Iran's military nuclearization. But he will also free his Middle East policy of pressure from the American Jewish right.
Obama doesn't owe them anything. When he ponders whether to use the power he has received from America for the difficult challenge of striving for a regional solution, he should only have to face two simple questions (to quote Hillel the Elder ): If not now, when?" and "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?"
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