It’s great he won, but Obama can’t save us from ourselves

According to early statistics, Jews voted 69% for Obama and 30% for Romney. I guess some of that may be an instinctive “Jews vote Democrat” thing, but I doubt if it’s much. It’s fair to assume that the bulk of Jewish voters assessed the candidates on the various issues – including, of course, support for Israel – and made a rational decision.

To put it another way, they shafted Bibi. And they shafted Bibi’s buddy Adelson, who pumped an obscene amount of money into Romney’s campaign on Bibi’s behalf. (I should have friends like that. When I was sharing an apartment with my friend Bullfrog, he would count his tomatoes to make sure I wasn’t eating them.) In fact, the delightful image of Adelson kissing his money goodbye was probably the best part of Obama’s victory for me. Sweet revenge (though not for long; January 22nd looms.)

It turns out that the glassy-eyed, mouth-frothing Bibi-lovers at AIPAC aren’t representative of American Jewry. Most Jews are still capable of rational thought. They understand that life is multi-dimensional and complex; that it’s not the single-issue call to arms that Bibi insists it is. Which is not to say that 69% of American Jews are opposed to Bibi and his policies; I’m sure that’s not the case. But they’re not all die-hard Bibi-ites either. Zionism is important to them, but it’s a nuanced Zionism. That’s a comforting thought for those of us trapped in the unidimensional weltanschauung of our beloved leader.

From an Israeli perspective, the key questions in the wake of Obama’s victory are whether it will have any effect on our own elections and which Obama will Israel be dealing with over the next few years.

I expect the major effect will be a puncturing of the AIPAC-inspired balloon. Bibi will continue to have his friends in Congress and they are unlikely to be any the more well-disposed to Obama then they were previously. But their fangs have been pulled. Their leverage over Obama has been reduced significantly and the Jewish vote has demonstrated conclusively that Israel in its Bibi incarnation is not the sole concern of US Jewry. AIPC will be a diminished force and with it Jerusalem’s pretentions to influencing, if not running, US foreign policy.

Bibi bet against Obama and he bet wrong. That will weaken him, though it’s unlikely to be a frailty that has much influence on the Israeli election. The US has been over-accommodating Israel so long that it’s part of the landscape. The Israeli voter expects it and the full dimensions of the change – if, indeed, there is one – will not be apparent by January. Bibi will go to the polls as a poor gambler but not worse.

Bereft of leadership, the progressive constituency in Israel is hoping that a rejuvenated Obama will be a lot more active on the Israeli-Palestinian front than he was during his first four years. I’m hoping that too, but I doubt that it will happen. Obama’s victory was narrow and his opponents in the House are many and rabid. Almost half of the voters sent him a strong message that his record on domestic issues is poor. Even as a lame-duck president, he needs to secure his legacy and the viability of the Democratic Party in his wake.

Israel was a hot topic during the campaign (over 30 mentions in the third debate apparently) but there are a couple of good reasons why it’s unlikely to figure prominently in Obama’s second term agenda. Firstly, most presidents throw their weight behind the peace process only when they smell a decent chance of success. If Bibi returns to power at the head of a strong coalition, which is probable, the chances of any progress with the Palestinians are limited in the extreme. Obama will prefer the relative shame of inaction to sticking his neck into the Bibi guillotine.

Secondly, the dominant theme of Obama’s second term, at least in the beginning, is likely to be compromise with his Republican opponents. They will accept minimal tax cuts and continuing debt in return for … what? Cutting Medicare, one of the few jewels in the Obama crown? Obama will be searching for less painful compromises and Israel could well be one of them. Bullying Israel doesn’t look good anyway, even if it is the right thing to do. My guess is that Israeli-Palestinian peace is going to be sacrificed on the altar of internal US compromise.

Which leaves those of us who actually believe in peace royally screwed. With the second intifada and its concomitant terror an increasingly distant memory, most Israelis (among them the leader of the Labor Party) seem happy to ignore the Palestinians. There is no-one on the left, or even the center-left, who is both willing and able to rise above party politics and lead the fight for sanity – which means reaching an accommodation with the Palestinians. Things have gotten so bad that several journalists have even floated the idea of Shimon Peres stepping down from the presidency and re-entering politics as the leader of a center-left bloc.

That’s what we’ve been reduced to. When a geriatric politician, who is both a serial loser and the founder of the entire settlement project, is regarded as the Great White Hope of the left, it’s clear that there’s no further to fall. We’re fucked, and Barak Obama is not going to save us from ourselves.

5 replies on “It’s great he won, but Obama can’t save us from ourselves”

I’m afraid your US assessment has a few holes. Sheldon Adelson is a right wing republican and his backing of Romney has less to do with his love for Bibi than his affection for lower taxes and money, Shelley is a swine of the first order. The real loss for AIPAC is the departure of the unloved Joe Lieberman and his influence on Democrat policies, even though he was a nominal independent the last couple of years, he was a pivotal influence because of the numbers game. Israelis often confuse American Jews with the kiippot brigade in the settlements and forget that the Jewish bloc is left leaning to a large degree and are probably closer to the Chomsky viewpoint than the Dershowitz.

You’re right, things are a lot more faceted than I presented them. But I think that’s part of the point I was making. American affairs are presented, and understood, in Israel as being entirely Israel-centric. As far as most Israelis are concerned, Adelson’s donations were to help Bibi, nothing more. That’s what they get told by the media. Likewise, the Jewish vote. Prior to the election, the press here was full of pieces about how there was going to be a sea-change in the Jewish voting pattern, How they were going to desert the Democrats en mass – because of Obama’s record on Israel. That’s why their doing what they’ve always done – vote Democratic – comes as such a shock. The Israeli media and politicians are incapable of viewing any development anywhere in the world in terms other than “is it good or bad for Israel?” I guess I fell in line by taking the same approach in my piece.

In that secret notebook that American presidents pass on to each other with the nuclear codes, there is a very clear one page document that says “don’t get too involved in making peace between the Israelis and Palestinians unless you have Clinton’s luck and balls. Otherwise you’ll end up like Carter.”
Obama read that document carefully, and he’s got, I’m afraid, no real reason to change his mind. It stands to reason that in the second term of a president those benighted professional Jews at AIPAC have more influence in Congress than on an administration. But that no reason to be optimistic. The kind of heavy pressure needed to bring Israel to its senses will be forthcoming only if it is a) a prime strategic target. and b) appears to be more than moderately achievable.
There are no signs that the Americans have even begun to figure out what their priorities in the Middle East are all about after the Arab Spring and Syria. Until that happens there is no game. It’s not about the Jews. It’s about Turkey, Egypt, oil, Jordan, and also Russia.

We, the Jews,(I include all Jews born of a Jewish mother or converted according to the Halacha) need to define ourselves as the Torah people ! That’s how the world views us too, whether we like it or not, but them’s the facts.
Bibi- shmibi , Adelson -shmadelson. When will we ever learn.
Roy, sophisticated political assessments means nada, zero , nothing when it comes to Israel and the Jews. By this I don’t mean that we should abandon rational thinking, or the knowledge of how the wheels turn in the physical world. I do mean, though, that ” the hearts of ministers and kings is in the hand of G-d” and that our relationship with G-d on a personal and national level is the key to Jewish successful existance.
The overwhelming majority of Jews in America (even orthodox) are in the tank for the democrats and we can debate the reasons. As you know , I am fiercely independent, even somewhat anarchistic (read anarchism v anarchy) and therefore try to vote accordingly. I do tend conservative rather than liberal but not on all issues.
America is in economic peril because of the fiscal irresponsibility of government which has spent it’s way to the proverbial abyss. In my mind, this is because of creeping entitlement which is another way of saying, inescapable debt because the politicians don’t know how to say NO. Everyone is now on the take, not just the 47% that Romney talked about. Politics here has (maybe always)become how to redistribute other people’s wealth. The republicans have joined in, but the democrats are the worst offenders because of wanting to appear “righteous” in their support of the “poor”
Obviously, government should assist the people wherever it can afford. The question has become, whether Government should distribute the wealth or the private sector.
America has re installed Obama as Pres. but retained the congress in the hands of the republicans, because there still remain sufficient numbers of responsible people who are resisting with all their might the, suicidal what’s in it for me now mania that has grabbed a hold of half the national psyche.
I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture…
Eventually, as it says in Pirkei avot..” Everything is given (on credit) with collateral ,but the Gabbaim(debt collectors) are making their rounds every day and taking what is owed by the debtor, willingly or unwillingly , and they have proof for their actions, and the judgement is true…’

I am delighted that the Lord, too, has his representative in this modest forum. Kibbitzing, as I have always said, is non-sectarian and nondiscriminatory. Anybody can be a kibbitzer, given sufficient cynicism and bile. I’m not sure that my old friend Yochanan fits the bill entirely, but am prepared to overlook the small stuff. To the essence:

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is between two nations, each with its own god or gods, who don’t see eye-to-eye with each other. In fact, they seem to be diametrically opposed when it comes to the rights to the land. And seeing that there’s no questioning a god, the upshot is that there’s no solution; we’re condemned to endless conflict. That might suit those whose concern is eternal salvation and that sort of stuff, but it’s of little comfort to those of us who live in the here-and-now. So,my suggestion is that we let Yochanan take care of the heavenly aspects, while those of us on earth do whatever we can to defeat the fascists.

There seems to be a shared, unanimous amnesia among all those conservatives who are hottest under the collar about entitlement. They forget that it is not only the poor, the weak and the disadvantaged who feel entitled to support from the community (what some might call “human kindness,” but let’s not get into that.) They forget about the bankers, who feel they are entitled to make obscene profits and line their pockets with them; they forget about the politicians, starting from the lowest local level, who feel they are entitled to barter power for cash; the corporations who feel they are entitled to ridiculously low corporate taxes; the rich (a guy named Romney, for example), who feel they are entitled to pay less in taxes than taxi drivers. And so on. Need I say more? And, get this, being afflicted with this amnesia makes people “responsible.” The rest of us are the irresponsible ones. You gotta love these guys. It must be great to live in a world of make-believe.

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