While we are waiting for what may be the final chapters in the political career of Ehud Olmert, it is appropriate to spend a few moments on American politics.
Barak Obama appears to be the Democratic nominee. His status relies on superdelegates, but I hear no one saying that Hillary Clinton or her people will press some of them to change their mind for the good of the party.
What is good for Israel? I do not assert that this is the appropriate question for Americans, but it is the question that will guide me for the next few words.
I hope we are beyond the idiotic Obama bashing. Barak Obama is not a Muslim despite his father's heritage or his own middle name. He did not swear allegiance to the United States on the Koran upon entering the Senate, and there is no evidence that he had a Muslim education.
There remains a problem with his affiliation with a minister who should be consigned to the ghetto in hell reserved for anti-Semites. Obama renounced the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but I hold it against him for not doing it several years earlier.
Obama spoke, along with others, at a convention of the pro-Israel interest group, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). I heard parts of a speech that could have been delivered, in Hebrew, at a convention of Likud in Israel. Strong words against terror and Hamas; Israel as a Jewish state; an undivided Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The only sentiments missing were support for expanding Jewish settlements, a commitment to Greater Israel, and both sides of the Jordan. The last two of those have also been absent at recent Likud conventions.
Response from the Palestinian leadership is far from happy.
The speech, delivered with typical Obama clarity and excitement, leaves me wondering about earlier comments when he said that he could support Israel without signing on to the program of Likud. There is also something of a clash between his overall theme of change, and leaving things as they are on the Israel-Palestine front.
Having heard about politics since the presidential election of 1944, I have learned not to accept every word of every politician at face value. The setting influences the content of a speech. Sooner or later there will be a speech for Arab-Americans. Nonetheless, it is difficult not to be impressed with Obama's position. Were I voting in the United States, I am not sure that I would vote for him, but the reasons go beyond his statements on Israel, per se.
Per se is important, because Obama's posture on Iraq is relevant to Israel. I have never been enthusiastic about America's wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I would be even less enthusiastic about the quick exit that Obama is advocating, and which is likely to be the darling of a Democratic Congress. What I see in an Iraq that is largely and quickly free of American troops is first, a great slaughter pursued by nothing like the rules of war recognized by civilized countries; and secondly, a threat that is likely to touch other countries in the Middle East.
I must admit, further, to be worried about a Democratic Congress, along with a Democratic president, putting pressure on Israel to be accommodating with the Palestinians, while not much pressure on the Palestinians to be accommodating with Israel.
I would like John McCain to be a few years younger and a bit healthier, but you have to take what you get in politics, and weigh the alternatives. Congress cannot make foreign policy alone, and the likelihood of a Democratic Congress adds to McCain's appeal.
Just yesterday I received the following e-mail from an internet correspondent, who seems to be looking under the rocks for his ideas.
"Those who subscribe to the conspiracy theory of government sometimes say that Johnson positioned himself as VP anticipating that JFK would not live out his full term.
Do you suppose that the conspiracy theorists might say the same about Hillary?"
I wish good health and long life to both of the major party candidates, and to their running mates.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Home tel: 972-2-532-2725
Cell phone: 054-683-5325