The Israeli media covered the U.S. elections on an unprecedented scale this year. It seems like every television host crossed the ocean to report directly from the mighty superpower.
There were moments when I felt a sense of exaggeration. It seemed as if the broad, deep and pervasive coverage was not only because of the unquestionable importance of the election outcome for Israel's future, but also because there are many in Israel who have a secret, hidden desire to be American. It seemed as if "they" were a little bit "us."
Among the older generation that always rejected the concept of a "second homeland," the congestion of photographs and reports was too intense. Perhaps not as much for young people. However, it is clear that electing a U.S. president is always an event of great importance for Israel. What would the Middle East map have looked like had Harry Truman lost the 1948 elections at the height of the War of Independence? We have no idea what the opposition party at the time — the Republicans — would have done during those years, in light of their favoring the concept of separatism and U.S. isolation after World War II.
The election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a significant threat to the Dimona nuclear reactor enterprise. What would have happened had he not been assassinated and then, perhaps, won re-election? The presence of his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, cemented Israel's status after the Six-Day War. Johnson was very different from Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, who held the reins in the U.S. after the Sinai Campaign in 1956 and ordered Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula.
The presence of Richard Nixon in the White House during the Yom Kippur war and the two Bush presidents during the wars with Iraq were also significant.
President Jimmy Carter's tenure from 1977-1981 were significant. Were it not for him, would Israel have signed a peace agreement with Egypt? At the same time, was any president as damaging as Carter in bargaining with the Palestinians?
Unlike other elections, this time around Israel has to deal with a unique situation. It has to wait for the U.S. to decide on its policy toward Iran; Jerusalem must wait to see what Washington's course of action will be and if it will act to prevent the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic.
The 2012 U.S. presidential elections have a direct effect on Israel because we are also in the midst of a political campaign. The given assumption was that a Romney victory would have given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu some tailwind in the elections here, and that Obama's re-election would strengthen Netanyahu's critics on the Left and Center. Perhaps Ehud Olmert is looking toward the U.S. hoping to grab a photo op with the incumbent upon his return to the White House to help open his campaign in Israel.