Israel should remember: Obama is down, not out
Israel is dependent on the U.S. in every sphere. There is reason to fear that the present government will think that in a year when Obama is a lame duck, it can do as it pleases.
While we are toying with the notion that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring forward the elections here in order to gain a decisive majority, we are simultaneously entering the real thing: the U.S. elections. This is not only the matter of President Barack Obama's potential second term, it's also election year for the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. Although we don't vote in America, we are keeping very close tabs on the elections' progress.
Officially and unofficially, we don't usually stick our noses in, one way or the other. But Bibi's associates have been heard voicing opposition to Barack Obama, claiming he is naive, doesn't understand, makes mistakes and, chiefly, is not really on our side. It seems that Bibi, who knows how to bring the members of Congress to their feet with hysterical applause in a single speech, aspires to be the mentor of the U.S. president. It's a shame his friend, billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, hasn't taught him that gambling is a dangerous business. And gambling on the possibility of a Republican president is a serious mistake.
Primarily, it contradicts Israel's policy of nonintervention in U.S. elections. In her time, Prime Minister Golda Meir scolded Yitzhak Rabin (Israel's ambassador to the U.S. at the time ) for his support of Richard Nixon. Ezer Weizman, meanwhile, flew in President Jimmy Carter's election plane in order to help him (unsuccessfully ) claim a second term in the White House, and had problems with the Democratic party.
Despite what the Arabs think, the United States is not in our pocket, and we don't intervene over the issue of who will or won't be elected in America. What is important is that Israel informs the presidential candidates of its policy. Our major failure was that we ignored Obama and didn't inform him of our problems. Instead, the first to influence his behavior toward Israel was his Jewish assistant, Rahm Emanuel. Because of him the president skipped Israel and began his peace campaign in, of all places, Cairo. And in doing so, he also gave Bibi an excuse to find an enemy in the White House.
The relationship with Obama is conducted on two parallel tracks that don't intersect. On one track, the security issue, an exceptional relationship has been formed with a commitment to Israel, including maintaining its qualitative military advantage. That's why we didn't hear any Israeli protest this time against equipping Saudi Arabia with advanced fighter planes.
In a similar instance in the past, Israel raised a hue and cry against the supply of F-15 planes to Saudi Arabia. Especially since the United States planned to provide the Saudis with planes that Israel had equipped with its own technical improvements. Our ambassador to Washington at the time, Moshe Arens, was summoned to Israel and got an earful from Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Now, with Iranian nuclear plans posing as much of a threat to Saudi Arabia as to us, Israel may not exactly be expressing approval, but it is not cursing either.
On the other hand, in the diplomatic sphere there is a complete severance between the two sides - beginning with settlement construction in the territories and stupid problems created by Bibi's government, including the failure to transfer money to the Palestinian Authority. Obama led us to understand that not only was it a nonconstructive move, it was also infuriatingly foolish.
While the Obama administration is pressuring us not to miss any opportunity to begin negotiations, and our behavior is hurting Obama, the message of the president's envoys is still, "We will not undermine Israel's security." This in spite of his doubts as to whether Bibi's 2009 Bar-Ilan declaration, in which Netanyahu set out his conditions for a two-state solution, is feasible.
While Obama's security commitment remains in place, the administration has placed the diplomatic issue on ice, or "the back burner."
It's clear that if Obama is reelected, there's a reasonable chance that the diplomatic issue will come up again full force. Even more so if U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who openly said she was tired of us) continues to serve in her present position, or is even chosen by Obama to serve as his vice president, because of her popularity with women. In this case, Bibi can expect to face a tough time.
Israel is dependent on the United States in every sphere, and there is reason to fear that the present government will think that in a year when Obama is a lame duck, it can do as it pleases. If we cross red lines, Obama will have it in for us, even though he's sweating it out in elections. A president is a president, even when he is fighting for his political survival.
A proverb states that "a lion that strikes a blow with its tail can still bring down the rabbits surrounding it." This is the place to advise Bibi and his retinue: Beware the tail of the lion.