Nice Things in America, Which Would Do Us Well

It is not yet clear whether Barack Obama's candidacy will come to full fruition, even though it has already produced early fruits. But the alarm bells are already ringing in Jerusalem.

We do not always need to look toward America to set an example. It has 70 faces and some should best be suppressed. America is not here and it would be better to take less from it, the New World, and more from the Old Continent.

But the primaries actually reveal America's beautiful faces, which would do us well, too: First, it is becoming apparent that big money is not always the answer for everything. Affluent candidates, the favored offspring of the wealthy, are not the ones who are always winning. There are more and more cases indicating that candidates without deep pockets, who collect their contributions from small change, still have a fair chance. And this is very nice and encouraging: The right to decide is not only reserved for the wealthy. We wish the same to be true for you - America is saying to the entire democratic world, and to Israel, too.

Secondly, not only the celebrities have succeeded. Some of the candidates were unknown until a short time ago, and they are making a name for themselves. They come out of nowhere and proceed to the White House against all the odds and contrary to the misleading opinion polls. And this is not the first time. We can still remember the emergence of Jimmy Carter. No one knew his name when he embarked on the long journey from Plains, Georgia. Everyone wondered then: Jimmy who? America also gives an opportunity to new faces, not only to worn-out figures whom the public has come to loathe. Here in Israel, meanwhile, there is nothing new under the sun, which is tanning the same people who all have wrinkles and blotches on their faces from the prolonged tanning.

Yet people of serious demeanor insist: What about "experience"? And there is a ready response: We have already had experience with those who have experience, with George Bush there and with Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert here. And with such experienced leaders, perhaps it would be best to give a shot to the rookies: It was "Jimmy who?," in fact, who forged peace between Israel and Egypt. He did not merely drop by for last-minute farewell visits, bogging us down in one giant traffic jam - from Annapolis to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Nice things are happening now in America. While the election campaign is only just beginning and the fate of the candidates has yet to be determined, it has nonetheless been demonstrated: Timely opposition to war, and not merely in the shape of pitiable wisdom after the fact, is not a necessary and sufficient condition for defeat at the ballot box. Obama, for example, did not wait for the degeneration of the war in Iraq to reject it in principle. Therefore, it is not necessary to spring to attention and sing the national anthem the moment a Bush or an Olmert decides to wage a forbidden war. It is definitely possible to exercise responsible and independent judgment, and the general public is likely to absorb and ultimately reward this.

It is not yet clear whether Obama's candidacy will come to full fruition, even though it has already produced early fruits. But the alarm bells are already ringing in Jerusalem: "Israel is worried about Obama." The media reports: "Senior government officials in Israel fear his meteoric rise." And the main reasons for this concern, it is reported, are Obama's support for dialogue with Iran and his weak connections with the Jewish lobby in Washington.

Don't worry. Anyone who is elected in America will maintain the friendship with Israel and treat it as an ally. But it would be a welcome change for the friendship not to be a blind one, and for the alliance not to lead to a mishap. It is worthwhile conducting talks with Iran, just as much as it is worthwhile conducting talks with Syria, just as it was worthwhile talking with Libya and North Korea. And it is not worthwhile dancing like a trained bear on every issue according to the tune of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) or the evangelical pastors.