There is an old story that symbolizes the essence of Americanism and Israeli chutzpah: Many years ago I decided not to wait in line to get breakfast at a deli on New York's Lexington Avenue, so I moved to the front of the line while passing some 15 people. They were shocked, but did not say anything. The deli worker smiled, and asked the person standing behind me, "What'll you have?" Only after he took everyone else's order did he turn to me and say, "And now, what will you have?" His cunning smile will be etched in my mind forever. Such are the Americans – quiet, polite and able to tear you apart with a huge smile.
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Tonight millions of Americans will be biting their nails, and in Jerusalem only one person will be doing the same - Benjamin Netanyahu. If Mitt Romney is elected president, Netanyahu's sigh of relief will be heard all over the Israeli capital, but if the prime minister is under the impression that the Republican candidate will be his savior, he is sorely mistaken.
During his meeting with Netanyahu Romney will make it clear that he is now the president of all Americans and is therefore committed to America's policy of rejecting Israel's hold on the territories and not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
"But during the election campaign you said…" Netanyahu will tell Romney.
"My dear friend," Romney will reply, "as they say, things look different from the Oval Office."
If Barack Obama wins the elections, he will continue to praise the State of Israel and vow to protect it. His smile will melt hearts in Jerusalem and at the AIPAC conference, but the US and its presidents have a long memory. They will forgive you for many things, but they will not forgive you for intervening in the elections.
During his second term Obama will not be obligated to anyone, and he probably won't say a lot. There will be enough people within his administration who will know what to do on his behalf. When the Americans boycotted Arik Sharon at the time, the former prime minister and his associates were shocked by how the president's aides carried out his instructions to the letter.
If Obama wins, the champagne bottles at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem will be placed back in the cupboard, and in the morning we will hear a report that "the prime minister has called an urgent meeting to discuss the new situation." New? As a former UN ambassador and deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, Netanyahu should have known that supporting a certain presidential candidate was risky. He should have known that he can no longer wrap American presidents, administrations and Congress around his finger.
Netanyahu was informed that Washington has changed the rules of the game, but he refused to play their game. Now the Americans will apparently demand that he pay a price. The problem is that we will all have to pay this price.