An exit poll among 1,600 Jewish voters published by pollster Jim Gerstein showed that 66% of American Jews voted for Democratic candidates for Congress. Most respondents told pollsters that they support Barack Obama’s leadership and endorse his efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict.
Despite the painful blow sustained in the midterm elections, Obama does not intend to let go of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, for the time being at least. The president intends to reiterate this in the coming days, during his trip to Indonesia.
The most terrible moment for Israel would be the one where Obama reaches the conclusion that there is no chance to secure a peace deal and that another opportunity had been missed. This has not yet happened, but it may certainly happen.
Obama’s proposal to Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction for another 60 days in exchange for unprecedented defense aid is still on the table. The prime minister is expected to hear this commitment directly from Vice President Joe Biden when he meets him next week at the Jewish Federations convention in New Orleans. Obama, according to his aides, still believes that securing an agreement is possible. He feels this can be achieved within a year from the moment direct talks resume on a continuous basis.
Timetable has changed
The fact that Congress is leaning to the Right is not expected to prompt the Administration to ease its pressure on Israel to compromise. The Republicans indeed won a House majority and grew stronger in Senate, yet Congress’ involvement in foreign policy is more limited compared to its dealings with domestic issues. What changed is the timetable. The closer the president gets to the end of his term in office, the more time he will have to dedicate to addressing America’s domestic problems, topped by the economic crisis.
The message sent by America to the president the other day is clear and unequivocal: Give us jobs. This is what interests the American voter, rather than new housing units in Kiryat Arba. Hence, Obama is facing a tight schedule. The president wanted 60 more days of construction moratorium so that the sides can formulate the principles for drawing a border between Israel and the Palestinian state. Once these borders are agreed upon, each side would be able to build in its own territory.
Obama became a weaker president Wednesday, yet he is still the president of the global power whose friendship is Israel’s top security asset. He has at least two more years left in office. In these two years, he can move mountains for Israel’s sake, or make its life more difficult. It depends on us too.
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