This Hyphenated Life / Choosing Between Change and the Safe Route for Israel

Raised by a father who proudly proclaimed himself 'a single issue voter,' I too was fixated on the age-old question of, is it good for the Jews?

Is it good for the Jews?

Honestly, isn't that the fundamental question we're all asking after the election of Barak Obama as president?

The Israeli in me told me not to be naive and to do what's safe for Israel. The American in me told me to go for change. In the end, it was a young girl on an NYC subway who sealed my vote.

This post of This Hyphenated Life will win me few friends. Being wobbly, undecided and ambivalent for too long is a sign of weakness, if not down right neurosis, and doesn't get a person invited to too many post-election celebrations.

Coming out early, boldly, with clairvoyant predictions - that's how you score points and earn admission to the inner circle.

When the presidential campaign started, my natural inclination was to head in the direction of McCain, or even Hilary. After all, both had shown themselves to be ardent supporters of Israel.

Raised by a father who proudly proclaimed himself 'a single issue voter,' I too was fixated on the age-old question of, is it good for the Jews?

E-mail messages containing dire warnings from Holocaust survivors NOT to vote for Obama, put the primal issue of our survival, once again, rightly or wrongly, front and center.

In all fairness, my dad had multiple interests and so do I, but when friends in Israel are positioning the vote as Teheran or Tel Aviv, pulling the lever makes some of us feel like we might be accidently voting Israel out of existence.

Or is it?

I took a turn to the right after 9/11. But now, seven plus years later, let us ask ourselves - did George W's tough talk and threats help put Iran in its place? Doesn't look that way, and pointing out the lasting benefits of his pro-Israel policies (other than no more Saddam) is not easy to pinpoint.

Furthermore, what does it really mean to be pro-Israel today?

I would argue that we need to elect more pro-Israel politicos in Israel itself, not just America. Meaning, Israeli leaders who truly put the country's real long-term interests above their own personal, political, and economic gain.

Over the last ten years, negotiations with the Palestinians seem to have become stuck on a freeway, with the right and left lanes merged and a bottle neck in the center - forward progress has crawled at a snail's pace.

In other words, formerly distinct political positions have folded into one and all basically know what needs to be done for Israel's future - not to be naive about the other side and ignore their dysfunction or true intentions.

Perhaps, a new American president, smart and young and eager to prove he too is no frier (sucker), will finally break that deadlock while honoring Israel's security needs, and moreover, countering the Iranians and other looming terrorist threats, too.

Getting Obama's attention and action on issues like these will require work, as there will be many other forces, some competing, tugging at him.

So back to the election, what was the clincher for me? Was it Sarah Silverman's viral video on nanas in Florida? Was it Sarah Palin's shocking pronouncements at stump speeches? Was it McCain's angry 'get off my front lawn' vitriol? Was it being wooed by Obama's cool and articulate responses and concurrently trying to tune out inflammatory statements from Jesse Jackson, Rev. Wright, and Farakhan?

Or, was it threats from my wife of the repercussions I would suffer for the wrong vote? (Hint, her ultimatum was delivered after she finished a round of campaign calls for a senator from Illinois.)

Instead, the moment that I became convinced was more unexpected and, yes, built on hope.

I walked on to a subway last week and sat across from an African-American girl, of no more than 11 or 12 years old. On her chest, a big pin, VOTE OBAMA. She had a bright smile, similar complexion to the winning candidate, a walking advertisement for America's melting pot.

It was an early weekend morning, and she was she was accompanying her mom off to what looked like was a day's work. Her mother sounded like she was from the Caribbean and asked me in halting English for directions. A look of enthusiastic pride remained on her daughter's face as we all said good-bye.

That this campaign has inspired Americans like her to be engaged and to feel positive about their country and themselves is a very good thing. Let's hope that what's good for her is good for the world, and what's good for the world is good for the Jews.

Marco Greenberg works in PR in New York City