Israel's status as the Promised Land, and a central site in the history of Christianity and Judaism has helped this little country a great deal.
It has also caused some problems.
Israelis welcome support. We are less united in our view of foreign politicians with messianic visions about a future we should embrace.
Bringing peace to the Promised Land is an admirable goal. By now it should be obvious, however, that politics and religion do not mix well. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road to peace in the Holy Land must traverse a Via Dolorosa.
The Muslims also have a stake here. It may not be as central to their history as in the case of Judaism and Christianity, but it is close. What the Jews call the Temple Mount is to them the Noble Sanctuary, which has moved up to be a point of no compromise since Israel became a thorn in their side.
Israeli news is featuring a report by Gregory Craig, said to be Obama's National Security Advisor, that his candidate will turn immediate attention to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and not let it rest without personal presidential attention. Along with this is a report that Senator John Kerry, said to be a candidate for Obama's Secretary of State, is concerned that the Bush administration has squandered the country's standing among Muslims. He proclaimed that he and Obama are staunch friends of Israel, and that an Obama administration must repair America's standing among Muslims..
Those are good reasons for applause from the Israeli left. Those of us who deserve the labels of skeptics or cynics may be wondering how much of a problem is John McCain's age.
It has long been said that the support for Palestinians expressed by leaders of Arab countries is, in large part, a way to distract their people from the problems at home. It is easier to rant about Israel than to deal with corruption and poverty in one's own country.
At least some American enthusiasm for the Middle East may reflect a similar process. It is easier to garner attention by dealing with distant problems than with the knotty issues of health care, environment, and economic security among all those interests at home.
The difficulties begin when American politicians and their aides travel far with home-spun images of good and bad, and overlook complexities of a kind that they could not avoid at home.
Now let us hear from all those Jewish Americans who have been loyal Democrats since 1932:
Obama is brilliant and flexible. And a good friend of Israel. All will be well.
Gregory Craig was speaking for Gregory Craig, not for Barak Obama.
Obama is smart enough not to appoint John Kerry as Secretary of State.
It is in Israel's interest to be more flexible, to heed its friends in the Obama White House, and to make the concessions necessary to achieve peace with the Palestinians and Arab countries.
Gregory Craig and John Kerry are not the first individuals who have looked at us with messianic visions. So far we have managed to resist, and to survive.
John McCain is only a bit older than me, and I think of myself as a young man.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Home tel: 972-2-532-2725
Cell phone: 054-683-5325