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29.08.2014
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Where will the storm take voters?
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David M. Weinberg

Letter to my American Jewish brothers

Dear Alan/Jack/Dennis/Robert/Debbie and friends (you know who you are):

Yesterday, an exit poll conducted by iVoteIsrael revealed that 85 percent of Israelis who voted by advance absentee ballot in the U.S. presidential election cast their ballot for Mitt Romney and just 14% for Obama. This may be a bit exaggerated, but probably not by much.

An Israel Democracy Institute/Tel Aviv University Peace Index poll found that 57.2% of Israeli Jews would vote Obama. A Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies/Anti-Defamation League poll showed that Israelis don’t know Romney well, but 30% still intuitively feel that Romney would better promote Israel’s interests. Fifty-three percent of Israelis feel that U.S. policy in response to the “Arab Spring” was not handled properly, and 38% feel that U.S. policy in response to the “Arab Spring” has weakened the standing of the U.S. in the Middle East. Forty-one percent of Israelis are dissatisfied with the Obama administration’s policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Most significantly, Israelis don’t have too much confidence that Obama can be trusted to stop the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb. Forty-five percent of Israelis think he might act to prevent the Iranians from obtaining the bomb, but 42% do not believe he will do so. On such an existential issue, this is simply just not good enough. Notably, 71% would support an Israeli bombing of Iranian nuclear sites — even if the American government opposed an Israeli strike!

What is clear from all those figures is that over the past four years Obama has not exactly won over the Israeli Jewish public. In other words, Israelis have not felt the love. What is so jarring about this is the degree to which it stands in sharp contrast to the love and adulation of Obama expressed overwhelmingly by you, our American Jewish brothers and sisters.

You ought to be honestly asking yourselves why this is so. And this ought to figure into your voting calculations next week.

It’s not like we Israelis haven’t been exposed to Obama’s charm campaign. Obama said all the right things about U.S.-Israel relations in the recent debates, and we all watched and listened to the debates carefully. It’s not like Obama hasn’t sent us every eloquent emissary to persuade us that “he has Israel’s back.” In recent weeks, the Israeli press has been swamped with pro-Obama testimonials from Dennis Ross, Alan Dershowitz, Jack Lew and the always-impressive and likeable Ambassador Dan Shapiro. General Dempsey is now here too, reminding us over and over again of the upgrades in U.S.-Israel intelligence sharing and weapons development that Obama has “unprecedentedly” authorized.

So we know all this. And still we would much rather see America elect a different president.

Of course, I realize that you, American Jews writ large, are historically, instinctively, reflexively and ideologically liberal. I know that this makes Obama much closer to you than Romney on matters of reproductive choice, Medicare, healthcare and the environment. And still I would hope and I want to believe that American leadership in the world and its defense of Israel is an equally important, if not more important, consideration for you when it comes time to select the next American president.

And in this regard, it is hard for me to understand how you can re-elect someone whose net record on Israel amounts to opening up the largest gap of “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel in the history of relations between the two countries.

That “gap” is a fact. All the much-ballyhooed “increased security assistance” and “close coordination” in confronting Iran aside, any and every world leader will tell you that Obama has distanced himself from Israel like no president ever before. Moreover, the opening of that gap was purposeful. Obama said so himself.

No president before has ever snubbed the Israeli prime minister the way Obama has humiliated Netanyahu. No U.S. president has ever dismissed as “noise” the protestations of an Israeli prime minister on the most existential security issue ever to face this country. No U.S. president has ever declared the 1967 lines as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations — without any coordination with Israel. No president before has ever made Jewish development of our capital city, Jerusalem, an issue.

Worst of all is our nagging suspicion, that you can’t reasonably negate, that in a second term Obama could cut a deal with the Iranians involving tacit recognition of their hegemony in the Gulf region and their nuclear status — which is what Tehran is truly after. That he will offer Teheran a “grand civilizational bargain” at Israel’s expense. That he won’t act to destroy Fordo and Natanz. Frankly, anything less is an abandonment of Israel and a failure of the U.S. to uphold the world’s collective security.

If you want an objective measurement of President Obama’s record in stopping the Iranians, consider this: When Obama took office in Jan. 2009, Iran had nearly enough low-enriched uranium to fuel one nuclear weapon. According to the IAEA, Iran now has enough U-235 to fuel about five nuclear weapons. We don’t consider this an Obama success. And from our perspective, that is perhaps the only measurement that counts.

Maybe you don’t fully believe any longer in American exceptionalism, but we Israelis do! From our corner of the world, Barack Obama seems embarrassed about projecting American power in the world. At a time when a strong and confident U.S. global posture is critical to confronting the growing power of Iran, of radical Islam and of Russia, Obama seems to be very hesitant, perhaps even appeasing. He certainly gives the impression to outside observers that America under his leadership suffers from strategic fatigue. That America is exhausted. That it has no sitzfleisch or stamina for truly confronting a nuclear Iran. That it suffers from strategic confusion and has no clue how to deal with the Middle East, even as successive Arab regimes crumble and the regional architecture cries out for direction.

Obama’s mix of embarrassed self-doubt and strategic weariness makes the world a very, very unruly place for Israel.

Understand: Israelis see America as a great and ennobling world power. We want America to bounce back. And Mitt Romney believes — he really believes! — that America is exceptional. He believes that it is a force for good in the world, and that America must lead. We feel that Romney’s refreshing prism on America’s just leadership would be his greatest gift to the White House, to Israel, and to the world.

You ought to be honestly asking yourselves why our perceptions of Obama are so different from yours. And this ought to figure into your voting calculations next week.

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