America's ceremonial political rituals played themselves out on Wednesday in all their glory before the entire world. There was the respectable appearance by the loser, who could barely conceal his disappointment but still praised the victor to the point where you wondered if perhaps he voted for him and not for himself; and the passionate address of the winner, who made similar gracious gestures to the loser and challenged the entire nation to unite and overcome together the many obstacles that lie in its path.
If Barack Obama had brought to the campaign the abilities that were on display during his victory speech on Wednesday, Mitt Romney would never have had a chance. But Obama, who began the campaign with an advantage, slid precipitously and was on the verge of defeat before recovering and achieving four more years in the White House as chief executive. He will be facing a divided Congress, but in the atmosphere of reconciliation that always follows the campaign wrangling, Obama should be able to press Republican leaders to compromise and arrive at bipartisan legislation.
The second-biggest loser in the U.S. elections was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who signaled clearly that he was hoping for Obama to be defeated. That turned out to be a double mistake - gross intervention in the democratic process of Israel's greatest, practically only friend, and betting on the wrong side.
Politicians are meant to pay for making such mistakes. Since the prime minister has already brought foward the election, the job of declaring no-confidence in Netanyahu has fallen to the voters.
Now that Obama has been re-elected, two issues directly relating to Israel must be faced. On the Iranian nuclear issue, Obama would do well if he continues to rein Israel in and give serious and direct talks with Tehran a chance to work. And in the diplomatic realm, we must hope that the freedom of his final term will give Obama the confidence he needs to concretely intervene is what's happening in our region and to restart the diplomatic process vis a vis the Palestinians, which has been totally frozen.
He must press this issue, even if the Israeli elections result once again in government led by peace refuseniks.
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