U.S. Elections in the World
Students hold a poster of U.S. President Barack Obama as they watch the US election vote counting at SDN 01 Menteng elementary school that he was once attended in Jakarta, Indonesia ,7 Nov. 2012. Photo by AP
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U.S. President Barack Obama seems to have just squeezed ahead of Mitt Romney in the popular vote in Tuesday's presidential elections, probably by less than two percent, but had he competed in a much wider constituency than the American electorate, he would have won handily. A BBC World Service opinion poll conducted last month in twenty-one nations containing a large majority of the world's population, had Obama triumphing by a global landslide. If the poll carried out by GlobeScan/PIPA is to be relied upon, 50 percent of citizens in the countries surveyed would have voted for the incumbent while only nine percent said they preferred the Republican candidate. Out of the 21, the only country where more voters would have gone for Romney was Pakistan.

Israel, with its much smaller population, was not included in the BBC survey but we have other polls indicating how Zion would have voted were it a state of the Union, and all of them would have the GOP candidate winning hands-down. One such poll had 57 percent of Israeli voters going for Romney while only 22 preferred Obama. Jerusalem and Islamabad never seemed so close.

On the face of it, the Jewish state has little in common with the impoverished Islamic republic in South Asia. Certainly Pakistanis' main reason for disliking Obama has nothing to do with the motives of Israelis. The foreign policy the American president is most identified with in that part of the world is the use of drones, unmanned aerial vehicles that carry out assassination missions of al-Qaida and Taliban targets, in some cases also killing innocent bystanders. Pakistanis, not unreasonably see the drone campaign as an infringement on their sovereignty and blame Obama for the unnecessary deaths. Most Israelis on the other hand have no problem with these tactics, indeed according to foreign media sources, drone warfare was pioneered by the IDF. Their opposition to Obama is mainly based on a perception, created largely by the pro-Netanyahu camp in the media, that he is unfriendly to Israel, as demonstrated in the demand that Israel freeze settlement activity earlier on in his first term (though he eventually gave up on that demand) and the more recent public warnings against an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

But digging deeper, there is a significant degree of resemblance between the negative feelings of both nations towards the newly re-elected American president. For a start, neither of them had any realistic hope for a change in policy had Romney been elected. He didn't criticize Obama's drone strategy in Pakistan; on the contrary, he was planning to continue it. And despite all his pro-Israel rhetoric and attacks on Obama for "throwing Israel under the bus," Romney essentially followed the administration's line on the two main issues facing Israel. He claimed to support a two-state solution and repeatedly said that while he would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, he still thought that there was room for diplomacy and sanctions before launching a military strike.

In addition, during Obama's first term, the administration did not decrease its material support and strategic cooperation with Pakistan or Israel, in both cases it increased. His predecessor George W. Bush also ordered attacks to be carried out on Pakistani soil and refused Israel permission to attack Iran. The difference between the two presidents is that despite his belligerent image, Bush was much more subtle in his dealings with both countries, preferring to paper over the differences. Obama preferred to highlight the Pakistani missions in order to present himself as a tough warrior-president to the sections of the American public who suspected him of pacifism and he found it hard to pretend to have a warm relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu when Israel's prime minister made no efforts to hide his symbiotic connection to the Republican Party.

Of course, there is a huge difference between the emotional bond between Israel and the United States strengthened by the Jewish community and the many values shared by both nations, and the much shakier alliance of convenience between Washington and Islamabad. Angry mobs crying "death to America" and burning its flag are a common sight on the streets of Karachi, not Tel-Aviv. But there is also much similarity in the feelings of resentment in both countries towards the world's only super-power. Israel may be America's closest ally in the Middle East but that closeness will always be limited by the need to maintain ties with Arab and Muslim nations that at least in the open abominate the Zionist entity. The same is true of the balancing act the administration has to play between Pakistan and its great enemy India. Some American presidents have been able to embark on charm offensives and overcome these resentments, Bill Clinton was the master, but Obama for most of his first four years has made little effort at this.

No country in the world has an equal relationship with the United States and every nation has to find a way to deal with its feeling of inferiority. Pakistan and Israel are in a much more difficult situation than most. To survive in volatile regions they need America as a strategic ally but above all they need to be able to deal with their demons, in Israel's case the untenable control of another nation's fate and in Pakistan the unholy alliance between the all-powerful military and the fundamentalist groups destabilizing its neighbors. The United States is in an impossible position where it is both urging the leaderships of the two countries to solve these problems while at the same time it is committed to supplying much of the resources that allow them to perpetuate the current situation. Obama in his clumsy way has highlighted this dilemma and it is hardly surprisingly he has failed in earning the gratitude of Israelis or Pakistanis.