What Does Israel Do if Obama Is Reelected?
“Don’t Panic” -- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I’m going to try to analyze what Israeli strategy might look like if Obama were to be reelected. I don’t want to write a partisan piece -- predicting every type of the most horrible disaster and open hatred from the White House -- but a serious analytical effort. This involves speculation, but policymakers have to develop the most likely scenarios in order to plan ahead.
Let me start, though, with a joke. An asteroid hits the ocean, producing a giant tidal wave so powerful that within an hour all land will be covered by water. Television networks put on a variety of politicians, alleged wise people, and religious figures to speak with the doomed population. The rabbi among them explains: “All I can say is that you have one hour to learn to breathe underwater.”
That is Israel’s mission. To survive a second Obama term brought on it by the American -- including a large majority of American Jewish -- voters.
The first thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does is send a warm message of congratulations to the reelected president. He is going to be president for four years, like it or not, and Israeli leaders will work hard to minimize any antagonism. At least with Netanyahu strongly entrenched, Obama will understand that he cannot subvert the Israeli government to get some other prime minister more to his liking (i.e., someone ready to make unilateral concessions in exchange for getting nothing in return).
So with that basis established, here's Israel’s Obama problem divided into four issues:
1. Maintaining bilateral relations
Israel’s government needs to ensure the continuation of U.S. aid, including assistance for anti-missile systems; intelligence sharing; and other forms of cooperation. Unless Obama decides to go all-out on an anti-Israel vendetta, he is likely to see this issue as a low-priority one. All he has to do is nothing.
Here, Israel’s contacts with Congress and the Defense Department will be critical. The Democrats in Congress will have to show whether they still do actually support Israel -- and a majority of them do -- by joining with the Republicans in backing continued aid and cooperation. The Defense Department has generally good relations with Israel and also benefits from Israel’s technological advances.
There are real prospects for maintaining bilateral relations on their current level. Obama can be expected to mistreat Netanyahu and to say things that totally misunderstand Israel and insult its interests, but when you are a country of 7.5 million allied with a superpower, your leaders have to take such behavior, as long as it remains verbal.