Part one of analysis by Ron Ben-Yishai
Will President Obama be good for Israel? That’s not the right question. What should interest us is whether Obama will be good for America. If he will indeed be good for America, we shall benefit as well; if he fails, we will be in trouble.
From an Israeli security perspective, the identity of the person in the White House and his attitude to Israel are secondary concerns. Since Israel’s establishment, all American presidents were ultimately pro-Israeli, because of the shared values and the deep involvement of American Jews in American politics.
Yet what is truly important to Israel’s security are the economic power and military-strategic determination that America conveys, as well as its position as a superpower on the global stage. The deterrence umbrella we gain through our deep and multilayered connection with our great friend overseas is derived from the above-mentioned factors.
The United States also grants us strategic as well as logistic-military safety net, which has already stood the test even during the terms of less sympathetic presidents, such as Richard Nixon and George Bush Sr. Moreover, we have been granted almost unconditional diplomatic support for more than 30 years now – even at times of disagreement between our governments.
America’s cultural and technological dominance allows us to integrate not only into the family of nations, but also among regional nations that see us as a foreign implant. Without all of the above, the State of Israel would be a much less safe place to live in.
The equation is a very simple one: Israel’s strategic situation improves the greater the power America conveys in the international arena, coupled with uncompromising commitment to the State of Israel’s security and wellbeing. As America’s status as a global power is mostly affected by its economic, technological, and social power, the next president’s ability to address the financial crisis in the United States is of critical importance – for us too.
This matter is much more fundamental in respect to our security than the question of whether Barack Obama deeply sympathizes with us, like Bush Jr. and McCain, or whether he balances his sympathies with his compassion for the suffering of Palestinians, as was the case with Jimmy Carter, for example.
Being a crafty American politician, who wishes to be elected for another term in office, Obama would not be able to ignore Israel’s existential interests and would have to take them into consideration. For example, in case he embarks on intensive diplomatic dialogue with Iran, as he said he intends to do. In his second term in office he would also have to take the positions of the Democratic camp that sent him to the White House, as well as the Jewish vote, into account.
What matters is the power and determination to be conveyed by America in the global theater. American-Iranian dialogue, for example, regardless of whether it prompts Tehran to stop uranium enrichment, would produce much more positive results for us should the president manage it from a position of economic and military strength.
The results of such dialogue would be different should the Iranians know that the US cannot really threaten them with a military stick or offer them truly tempting economic carrots.
The bottom line is as follows: The next president will be good for Israel should he be able to restore his country’s economic and diplomatic power, extract its army from the Iraqi quagmire, and leverage his election victory in order to unite the American people behind his policies. All of the above are seemingly domestic American issues, but they will indirectly affect the security of the State of Israel and its citizens.
Part two of Ron Ben-Yishai’s analysis will be published Thursday