Barack Obama doesn't have a clear idea himself, and he has been straddling the fence - he has no idea if the hands he will be shaking during his trip to Israel will be the same ones he'll be shaking in the future.
When the candidate lands here tomorrow, a fog of ambiguity will still hover over his position: It remains unclear whether Jerusalem, the focus of his brief trip, will be a united city under Israeli sovereignty or the capital of two states. Barack Obama doesn't have a clear idea himself, and he has been straddling the fence - he has no idea if the hands he will be shaking during his trip to Israel will be the same ones he'll be shaking in the future.
Official Jerusalem has gotten used to the idea that Obama will be the next American president. At first, Israelis didn't think he would be able to beat Queen Hillary, and they were proven wrong, as usual. Indeed, there will be less enthusiasm for his visit than in Europe or among American soldiers, but the reality of the situation will be enough to spur Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to glad-hand Obama, even though the premier is a friend of U.S. President George W. Bush and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, and to compel Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to whisper a secret in the leading Democrat's ear.
Even if Obama is not elected president, his candidacy has already left a deep impression. It has changed the path of American policy. Bush has agreed to negotiate with Iran and discuss a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Even a blinded president is beginning to understand that there is no choice but to speak with the axis of evil and, even more so, with allies. Just as the Bible decreed it is not good for man to be alone, so, too, it is not good for America to be alone, taking action in the world as it would at home. Libya and North Korea agreed to give up their nuclear activities thanks to a carrot, not just a stick. And that is precisely what Obama is suggesting - to try to talk - for which he is depicted as spineless and strange. Such mudslinging is familiar to us, and we know that someone ends up doing the work later anyway - too late.
American Jews will monitor the visit, making sure to examine every remark, every facial expression. If they prefer McCain for reasons unconnected to Israel, that's their right. But if they prefer him because of Israel, they can keep their goodwill and not do us any favors. The government considers McCain a friend, and we've had enough of Bush's friendship, which left us stranded and was remembered only after seven years.
Electing McCain means continuing the Bush-Cheney-Rice policy. It means another four years of trouble: the futile war between the "enlightened ones" and the "unenlightened ones" will continue; America's deterrent power will continue to dissipate; a peace agreement with Syria will be held off until the end of days, along with an Israeli-Palestinian deal; and the Arab League's peace plan will gather dust.
McCain is not as obtuse as Bush or as corrupt as Cheney, but he is their successor. McCain has even removed himself from the international arena when it comes to environmental issues. Just this month, he supported Bush's plan to allow the greedy oil companies to continue to damage the ocean environment in sensitive regions that have rare natural resources.
Obama has a good chance of being not just a president, but a world leader who wants to save himself from himself. Can it not be that, for a change, what's good for the world will also be good for the Jews, and what's good for the Jews will also be what's good for the world?
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