Latest Presidential Polls: Romney Holds Texas Size Lead Among Israelis
If Israel really were the 51st state, Mitt Romney could count on its electoral votes. Polls conducted within Israel show him with a Texas-sized lead. Romney even got the endorsement of a former director of Democrats Abroad in Israel, Bryna Franklin. Not only does the Missourian turned Jerusalemite criticize Obama’s domestic and Iran policies, she finds the President of the United States insufficiently deferential towards the Israeli Prime Minister.
While it is an open secret that Obama and Netanyahu do not like each other, they also differ on policy. Early in Obama's term, Netanyahu made clear with facts on the ground that he had no intention of slowing down the creeping colonization of the West Bank, making any sort of two-state solution to Palestinian issues impossible. (Don’t ask me: ask the leader of the Israeli settler movement, whose triumphant New York Times op-ed conspicuously fails to mention any sort of Palestinian political future.) This is contrary to the stated policy of the Obama administration, as well as its predecessors.
The Israeli government was also upset with the consequences of the Arab Spring, where dictators eager for Western recognition and American aid (that could be diverted to their own pockets) were replaced by governments that were, first, less responsive to American pressure, and, second, themselves so weak that they may not be capable of suppressing terrorist activity, even if they want to. Netanyahu described the toppling of these mukhabarat (secret police) regimes as “moving backward, not forward.” Washington’s response was nuanced, but certainly more positive than that.
Most recently, while Obama currently sees the sanctions on Iran as adequate to constrain an Iranian nuclear weapons program, Netanyahu has been openly bandying about the idea of an air strike similar to ones successfully conducted against Iraqi and Syrian nuclear installations in the past. Iran’s facilities are, however, both better protected and further away, far enough that Israeli aircraft will have to refuel in the air. American logistical cooperation (much less participation) would greatly increase the amount of damage Israel could inflict on the Iranian sites. Until the last debate, Romney seemed willing to accept the repercussions of a joint American-Israeli attack on Iran, which would be severe across the entire Muslim world. While Romney sounded more moderate during the debate with Obama, we can be sure he won't be less supportive of unilateral Israeli action than the incumbent.
No wonder American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has poured at least $47 million into Romney-affiliated PACs. Adelson may also be Netanyahu’s biggest backer. Israeli campaign financing works differently, but — or perhaps, so — Adelson created what is now Israel’s most-circulated newspaper, Israel Today. The paper, nicknamed Bibi’s Paper (a rhyming pun in Hebrew) is notorious for complete, unequivocal support of Netanyahu; its top pundit was also employed by the Prime Minister’s office. Israel Today is given away free yet undercuts its competitors’ ad rates. Adelson subsidizes the losses, meaningless in the context of his overall fortune.
There are other views of the Obama administration in Israel, but they are in the minority. Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak, contradicting his boss said the Obama Administration was doing “more than anything I can remember in the past” for Israeli security. (Ehud Barak seems to exist both inside and outside the Netanyahu government at the same time.) An Obama victory will do nothing to restore the exhausted, defeated, divided, and sometimes corrupt Israeli opposition: they will have to seek renewal within their own land. If Obama loses, however, it will be a long time before an American president dares not outsource our Middle East policy to Netanyahu’s Likud Party.