WASHINGTON - Like in Israel, election days in the United States are one long and ongoing show. Candidates promise things that don’t exist, scare the public with threats they have no idea how to deal with, and when the cameras arrive they embrace children and political interests (we are an interest too).
In a luxurious auditorium in Washington, a two-minute walk from the White House, it was Hillary Clinton who spoke favorably about us this week. It was during the concluding event of the Saban Forum, and Clinton posed for pictures alongside a long list of participants.
I watched the politicians standing beside her from the side. I always find it interesting to see people who don’t know each other turn into good friends in an instant as they face the lens.
Clinton may become president. In the meantime, she is a walking potential. Posing for pictures with a potential can do no harm. When Clinton addresses a crowd of Israel supporters she distinguishes herself from President Barack Obama, distancing herself from the unclear legacy he is leaving behind.
While Clinton addressed the forum's participants, Obama addressed US citizens. It was the first time that he had recognized the San Bernardino attack as an act of terror. It took the American president four long days to acknowledge reality. The more he explained the delay, the less convincing he sounded.
Only several hours after the attack, Knesset Member and former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren told me that he was convinced it was a Muslim terror attack. Obama has intelligence services and direct reports from the ground. Oren has a television screen in his office at the Knesset which aired the list of the victims. The first two victims were Jewish. The terrorists were Muslims with suspected ties to terror organizations. That was all it took. The president could have experienced Oren's gut feeling too, if he had only wanted to.
The Obama administration's biggest failure is the vertigo regarding the Muslim world. He toppled moderate regimes and ignored the rise of radicals with mere words. He signed an agreement with Iran, found it difficult to call terror by its name and found it difficult to characterize the collapse experienced by Muslims around the world. His silence benefited no one, especially not the moderate Muslims.
It's hard to deal with the collapse of a culture, with a religion turning into a factory for the production of terrorists. In the liberal world, everyone wants a peaceful life, regardless of religion and race. It's impossible to perceive that there are those who only seek death. Obama's approach creates electoral damage. In France, the elections turned over because of terror, and in the US terror can destroy or advance a presidential candidate. Hillary Clinton understands that and is staying away. I'm not certain it will help.
The basic assumption among the Democrats is that Netanyahu's Israel wants a Republican president. Examining the past, they do have a basis for this sense of conspiracy - wealthy people, personal ties, an Israeli ambassador associated with the Republicans and almost disqualified by the Democrats.
The problem is that the Americans are not the only ones who are convinced; so are some of the Israelis, and that's a problem. Apart from a counter-reaction to the Obama era, a Republican president is not necessarily better for Israel.
Israelis have a short memory. The best example is George W. Bush. A moment before the 9/11 attacks, Bush wanted to present a plan imposing a Palestinian state. He used every opportunity he got to condemn Israel and almost made Ariel Sharon persona non grata during his first years in the White House. During Operation Defensive Shield, when the Palestinians published their blood libels about a massacre in Jenin, Bush's Americans condemned Israel. The same happened every time a balcony was closed off in the city of Ariel.
It took Bush some time to reconcile with Israel. It happened in his second term, the stage Obama is at today. A more outstanding example is his conduct vis-à-vis Ehud Olmert, his "good friend" (as he defined him) in 2007. When the Syrian nuclear reactor was uncovered, the friendship disappeared and only the interests remained. Bush sent Olmert to hell - or to be more exact, to report the problem to the United Nations and to ask the UN to handle it. Olmert refused and handled the problem himself.
The conclusion is that a Republican president is as good or as bad for Israel as a Democratic president. The only difference is that if the Republicans' candidate happens to be elected, Netanyahu will have no one to use against him in the Senate.