I must admit, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) voiced what a lot of people were thinking when he said, the morning after U.S. President Barack Obama won another term in the White House, that this was not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's finest hour. The prime minister did deny his support for Obama's Republican opponent Mitt Romney throughout the campaign, but he wasn't persistent or consistent or emphatic about his denial, and his claims were not believed in the U.S.
This was not the first time an Israeli politician clearly favored one candidate over the other. In 1972, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin vocally supported Richard Nixon over Democratic candidate George McGovern. Former Israeli President Ezer Weizman served as an errand boy on Jimmy Carter's campaign. But this time around, the Americans were far more sensitive.
Netanyahu's assumption — which didn't pan out — was that Romney would win, so what reason did he have to keep his sympathy at bay? But perhaps if Netanyahu were to have withdrawn his support for Romney ahead of time, it would be easier for him now to smooth things over with Obama. It is always easier to mop up a fresh spill than to get an old stain out after it has set in. Netanyahu now has a delicate challenge ahead of him, because his rivals in the Israeli political system will not shy away from attacking his Achilles' heel.
Obviously it would be best to set up a meeting between Obama and Netanyahu at the earliest convenience. But Obama isn't likely to agree to meet with Netanyahu before the Jan. 22 Israeli elections. In its heyday, the Foreign Ministry, with the utmost professionalism, would have set up two damage control teams. Assuming that Obama will not set aside his reservations, Israel needs to forget about emerging from this unscathed. That would be impossible. All Israel can do is minimize the damage. That means finding an appropriate form of compensation that will appease Obama, but won't destroy Israel.
Working to preserve the cooperation on security issues and progress toward blocking Iran's nuclear ambitions, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will inevitably come back to life. Obama will want to have an achievement under his belt. Israeli courtship of Obama will exact a price on the accelerated construction in Judea and Samaria. The overt battle, as well as the battle behind the scenes, will be waged over the question of whether settlement construction will be halted before the general elections, or the day after.
The end of the "American era"
This is the way of the world. The old is replaced by the new. The new world in the U.S. is pushing the old world out. It wasn't just Obama who defeated Romney.
America and its new rules, which don't necessarily reflect the Founding Fathers' vision of the country, is conducting itself in accordance with an entirely different set of values and criteria. Not all of them are known to the world. Indeed, not all of them are even known to America itself. Many of its citizens aren't even aware of it. A decade ago, no one would have imagined a president who is not white. Romney and the Republicans didn't want to see the truth that was taking shape, and they didn't make enough of an effort to prevent this eventuality. Most of the Democrats also refused to accept any kind of change. Years ago, Shimon Peres said America was no longer white, it was brown. His remark elicited unrestrained rage and he was forced to apologize. Now he can reclaim that remark.
There is something about this trend that should push Israel to adopt a new reality. Forty years ago, a senior State Department official told me that Israel needs to prepare for the day when the Holocaust no longer sparks automatic sympathy for the Jews among Americans. What are we doing to convince the new America, not just the old white America?
From an American standpoint, the development is fascinating, even charming. About 225 years after the constitution was signed, its equal opportunity clause is coming true in American politics. Ever since the constitution was ratified, the leaders of America have always claimed that waves of immigration were processed in the American melting pot. Immigrants were ridiculed. Now it seems that the melting pot is rather effective.
There is one question that still remains: Has this achievement for humanity cost America its status as the world's most powerful empire? The 20th century has been referred to as the American era. Even the U.S. itself now realizes with great sadness that the century has turned.