ANALYSIS / Israel's Dilemma: Obama vs. Qassams

Tuesday night's events emphasize the different directions in which Livni and Netanyahu are heading.

No declaration of support and no promising statements can diminish the fear many Israelis' have of U.S president - elect Barak Obama.

An elderly woman of Iraqi descent tells her daughter: "I saw them dancing. They're like the Arabs." The daughter replies: "I know - he'll support the Palestinians."

"This is the end of us. He will take away our military foreign aid grants," another man states. These recent responses to Barak Obama's election are typical of many Israelis.

These people identify Obama, black and bearing Hussein as a middle name, as a supporter of the oppressed in Third World countries, and fear that he will automatically side with the Palestinians.

Israel is not one of Obama's primary concerns. During his victory speech his weary eyes revealed his exhaustion after one of the longest presidential campaigns in the history of the United States, and his worries regarding the grave problems that he now must face: saving the American economy from a threatening recession, and putting an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a bit of dignity. As Obama said, the road ahead is long, and the problems may not be resolved within just one year, or even within a single term.

Obama helps Livni, Qassams help Netanyahu

Regardless of his concern with Israel, Obama plays a key role in Israel's upcoming elections. The events of Tuesday nights stress the dilemma that Israeli voters will be facing: Obama's election helps Livni's candidacy while the Qassam missiles raise support for Netanyahu's.

Kadima party chair Tzipi Livni and her supporters will make attempts to convince the public that the key to good relations with the American government is peace talks, and although the U.S will not necessarily rush to intervene in the peace process, it will no doubt object to the settlements and urge Israel to give up territories.

Livni's camp will maintain that electing Netanyahu will inevitably lead to a clash with Obama, causing mainly stress and headaches. Judging by this approach, Obama is on the right side of history along with the Israeli left wing, as opposed to the state's right wing and Israeli settlers.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, will focus on the other events of Tuesday night, stating that the Qassam firing proves the depth of Kadima's failure to secure Israel even in times of a cease-fire agreement. Netanyahu will maintain that voting for Kadima ensures the continuation of Qassam attacks against Israel, and any discussion of further disengagement will spur more rocket firing. Netanyhu will maintain that he can convince Obama's government that Israel mustn't surrender to terror, and that he has good relations with the new president.

Much like the U.S, Israeli surveys show it to be a close race that is more likely to be affected by the two candidate's mistakes and stumbles than by the change of government in America. Nevertheless, Livni and Netanyahu will definitely do their best to emphasize the dilemma between Obama and the Qassam missiles.