Mitt Romney went to the Kotel on Sunday. It was quite a sight. But not an unusual one for a candidate running for the highest office in the land. Nor was all the pro-Israel rhetoric that unusual – especially at a fundraising event in Jerusalem. Watching all of this on the TV news on Sunday night made me think about the upcoming Presidential election. I thought I would do a snap analysis of the candidates as they stand now and see whether either of them deserves my support.
I have come to the conclusion that where it matters the most to me – the security of the State of Israel and the overall welfare of the Jewish people, there is virtually no difference between them. Both President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney would be “good for the Jews.”
This may come as a shock to Obama haters and Romney supporters, but any fair analysis of the candidates cannot help but see them this way. A lot of the Jewish opposition to the President has been because of things that are not of any substantive value.
For example there is the fact that the President has not visited Israel… or the time he said that any treaty between Palestinians should be based on the pre-’67 border lines …or his criticisms over Israel’s settlement polices … or the less-than-warm relationship with Israel’s prime minister.
If one looks at these issues and measures them over substantive ones – like Israel’s security, Obama has a magnificent record – one that surpasses any of his predecessors. He has helped fund Israel’s Iron Dome defense system over and above the foreign aid allocated to them. He recently approved additional millions in foreign aid to Israel. He has instituted the greatest level of intelligence co-operation in Israel’s history. Same thing is true about joint military exercises. Both are at unprecedented levels. He has also insisted that one of his most important foreign policy goals is preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
That’s just a partial list of things he’s done to show his ‘unshakeable’ support for the State. I therefore do not buy the argument made by the anti Obama forces that President will put any more pressure on Israel after the election. If this is being anti Israel – I’ll take it!
The non-substantive issues are virtually irrelevant in light of all these pluses. Sure, I’d like for him to have visited Israel at least once during his Presidency, but what difference does it really make? Sure I’d like him to have warmer relations with Israel’s prime minister… but again as it affects Israel’s security – what difference does that really make?
What about his rhetoric with respect to Israel’s settlements policy? His statements hardly differ from policies the US has had in past administrations. Why pick on him? For example let us look at the pre-’67 border statement. He didn’t say that Israel had to go back to the exact pre-’67 borders. He said that there would be land swaps to accommodate “the facts on the ground.” Meaning that border areas like Maale Adumim would be annexed by Israel in exchange for unoccupied territories from Israel proper. I happen to believe that this is going to be the scenario in any peace treaty in the unlikely event that it should ever happen. I saw nothing wrong with that statement. He was merely stating the obvious.
Aside from some pro Israel rhetoric – I do not see Romney doing anything substantially different with respect to Israel or Iran than the President has.
So as it stands now – and for the first time in many years, Israel will not be the issue that will make the decision for me in the next election. I will instead be voting for who I think will do a better job for the economy.
Right now, after Obama’s three and a half years in office – the economy is not doing well. Far too many people are unemployed. Jobs are being created at a snail’s pace and the rate of jobs being created has actually been decreasing over the last two fiscal quarters.
Businesses aren’t hiring. They are being over taxed and over regulated which increases operational costs and tends to discourage production, and thereby hiring. His environmental policies have cost jobs too. In at least one case it has caused cancellation of a project (an oil pipeline from Canada) in the private sector that would have created jobs and helped stabilize oil prices.
Insecurity about the economy and jobs has caused something called “the paradox of thrift”. People are saving money for “a rainy day” rather than spending it. Demand for goods and services are therefore down which decreases production and jobs. Hence a stagnating economy.
All of the President’s stimulus plans have not worked. Spending money on government projects for purposes of jobs has not helped much. Except to increase the deficit. Which devalues our currency in the world and can only contribute to inflation. Oil prices are up…. causing transportation prices to go up … causing food prices to go up. One can call this stagflation!
Does that mean I support Romney? Not necessarily. Romney is something of an enigma to me. I have no clue what he would do to fix the economy. Generalizations like his successful experience in the private sector or that he will be more pro-business are meaningless without details. I do not see any specifics to indicate how he will get the economy moving again. Right now it’s all talk.
The bottom line for me is that I have no endorsement yet. I am not happy with either candidate at the moment. With Israel being off the table in this election for the reasons I stated above – unless I can be convinced that Romney’s plan for improving the economy makes more sense than Obama’s policies – I remain undecided.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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