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Will Romney or Obama Save Israel from Iran?

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U.S. President Barack Obama (L) sitting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in the oval office, May 18, 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) sitting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in the oval office, May 18, 2009.
Photo Credit: Pete Souza

Who will save Israel from Iran? President Romney or President Obama?

On August 26th The New York Times had this to say:

Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by major arms sales to Persian Gulf allies concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions, according to a new study for Congress. Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

Sixty-six billion dollars. That is a lot of money for a cash-strapped country. (Compare that to $48 billion – the budget of the Department of Homeland Security in 2012). Now, let’s say you were working in the Pentagon, or at Northrop Grumman, or you were a Senator or Congressman for an arms manufacturing state – would you go to sleep at night praying for world peace? No, you would not. Instead, you would thank God for the success of your business, and especially for the guys you owe it all to, Ayatollah Khomeini and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They are responsible for all that business – 66 billion Dollars.

As Israel waits for a green light from the US to attack Iran so as to deal with the Iranian threat, some in America prosper from the arms escalation in the Middle East. And while we hear palliatives to the effect that this or that president will help Israel with Iran, it is all just a game, and a delay tactic. Iran is too lucrative to US arms manufacturers to allow Israel to have total victory over the Mullah regime. For the powerful arms industry, nothing could be better than a bunch of far-away Middle East folks who have disposable cash and who love to buy American made arms. The USA may talk peace but it sells war.

The Iran problem is not the making of Barack Obama. Fifteen years ago I was an intern in AIPAC’s Washington DC office. Back then,  Middle East analyst Keith Weissman was constantly warning that Iran had the will and the capacity to pursue a weapon of mass destruction. Netanyahu himself has been making this issue public for over a dozen years. This problem has been festering and no American leader, Republican or Democrat, has really tried to deal with it – maybe because for them there is no problem, but rather, a financial opportunity.

The current Republican candidate for US President, Mitt Romney is not more pro-Israel or anti-Jihad then Reagan, Bush I or Bush II. He is cut of the same cloth and he has not made one indication that he will seriously take on Iran, Saudi Arabia terror sponsorship, southern Lebanon, or Gaza. Nor has he made any signs that he will curtail that other favorite policy of US presidents – that of shrinking Israel and forcing a “Two-State solution.”

The odds are that a Romney White House will not change the course of American foreign policy, just as, ironically, President Obama has not.  In fact, there has been little change in US policy for the past 40 years, and the last 9 presidents. When it comes to the Middle East, the US has consistently allowed radical Islam to flourish, and sold arms to the region, all the while trying to shrink Israel.

The one thing that the Obama administration has changed is the tone and the rhetoric – and this has brought visibility to the rest of their actions including the arms sales, the friendliness to Jihadist Islam, the open antagonism to Israel, and the will to shrink it.  But during the George W. Bush years – the closest thing to Mitt Romney we have had – the very same policies did not show because Bush II ‘loved Israel’. All the while he was in bed with the Saudis as they were exporting Wahabbi Jihadism all over the globe (including US campuses), he created the Palestinian Dayton ‘security forces’ (terror army), did nothing to curb Iran’s ambitions, and effectively stopped the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

For four years, George W. was in office after Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which calls for the embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999. The law also said that “Jerusalem should remain an undivided city…[and that] Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.” To sidestep the law, President Bush, used a proviso loophole and waived that law every 6 months. Every six months for the remainder of his term President Bush said NO to an Israeli Jerusalem.

But Israel did not call him on it.

In June 2002, less than a year after September 11th, George Bush gave his “Road Map” speech in which he concretized US policy in pursuit of an Arab state in the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria with the words:

A stable, peaceful Palestinian state is necessary to achieve the security that Israel longs for. So I challenge Israel to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state. As we make progress towards security, Israel forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000.  And consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop.

But Bush II was embraced, and is remembered, as a “friend of Israel.”  Why?

The tone and style of Bush and Clinton before him (remember the Oslo Accords, Arafat on the White House lawn) was full of superficial love for Israel. They gave off gushy “Shalom Chaver” feelings while supporting Israel’s haters in their actions. The same certainly goes for Carter, who for that matter, was seen as a peacemaker in his day but in the end showed his fangs. All these Presidents had the ability to exhibit warmth to Israel while driving policies that hurt Israel’s national security.

In my last article, “Obama Good, Romney Bad for Israel” I wrote that as an Israeli, I prefer Obama to Romney because the transparency of the Obama agenda. Israel’s weakness to an American President’s perceived love is what leads the Jewish State to make dangerous concessions. Yet when a US leader, like Obama, is distant from Israel, even has animosity to it, this allows Israel to finally reject the long-standing bad policies that continued for decades under pressure from “friends of Israel.”

But let me be clear, I am not endorsing a candidate for US president. In fact, as an Israeli, I do not think I should vote in the US, though I may have the right to. My country is Israel, and it is with Israel that my allegiance lies, and this is the country that I want to build. I do not wish any harm to the US, in fact, I wish it blessings and I owe it a huge debt of gratitude. It is precisely because I respect America, that I do not vote in its elections. Since I am not involved in US issues, and do not live there, I would only be voting on what is best for Israel, and that just seems disingenuous.

I wish more American Jews would feel, like I do, that the place to vote for a Jew is in the Jewish State. We, the Jewish people, are building a county in the Middle East and we must be prepared to deal with the local threats with or without American support. Whether it is Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas or Fatah, Israel needs to act in its best interests before these threats materialize. What is best for Israel is not what is desired by Obama nor Romney as they have other interests in mind. What is best for Israel is independent policy-decision making.

Therefore, as an Israeli I am not afraid of an Obama second term. A certain amount of disengagement from bad State Department policy is a good for Israel, and in the long run, Israel and the US will be able to rebuild a relationship on a healthier, more equal basis. On the other hand, if Romney wins, Jews must be careful not to fall into the old habit of accepting bad US policy just because a president appears to have a heart for Israel. Instead, we should follow the money trail, and look hard into the policies to see if that presidential smile is genuine. Given the US’ record on Iran, and their fiscal interests there, Americans should not be fooled into believing that this or that US President will do everything in his power to protect Israel.

Instead of falling for the illusion of elections, Americans who love Israel would do well to focus on policies and take clear messages to both Romney and Obama camps: (1) move the US Embassy to Jerusalem in fulfillment of the 1995 law passed by Congress; (2) cut US financial support to the Palestinian Authority; (3) end US support for the shrinking of Israel through the advent of a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland; (4) free Jonathan Pollard; (5) fight anti-semitism on U.S. campuses.

Beyond the public policy sphere there are a lot of real ways to support Israel in the United States, and they are all non-partisan. There is a desperate need to bolster Jewish education about Israel and support programs dedicated to strengthening the connection between Diaspora Jews and and Israelis such as Birthright and Friends of the IDF. There are also wonderful organizations working on building Israel’s infrastructure like hospitals, schools and communities, and they need help. Amazing research is being done in Israel, and new startups could use seed money. By taking part in the plethora of real build-Israel initiatives Americans can take part in the rebirth of Israel.

And ultimately, American Jewry should be focused on transitioning their life to Israel, the Jewish State, where they are most needed and where they can make the greatest impact.

Yishai Fleisher

About the Author: Yishai Fleisher is a Contributing Editor at JewishPress.com, Chief Editor at JNi.media, talk-show host, and International Spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, an Israeli Paratrooper, a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and the founder of Kumah ("Arise" in Hebrew), an NGO dedicated to promoting Zionism and strengthening Israel's national character. Yishai is married to Malkah, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem with their children.

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