Israel and U.S. on a Collision Course?

Some 57 percent of Israeli Jews preferred Romney, only 22% Obama (in my sector of American Israelis it was even more lopsided, a full 85% having cast absentee ballotsfor the challenger, only 14% for the incumbent). So, naturally, for the most part, November 7, 2012 was not a day of celebration in Israel.

Israel, too, has elections coming up—on January 22. That has prompted speculations that Obama will now throw his weight behind Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s left-of-center challengers. There are precedents for it, most notably in 1999 when President Bill Clinton sent a team of PR strategists Stanley Greenberg, James Carville, and Robert Shrum to help out Ehud Barak, then challenging Netanyahu (in his earlier term) from the left. Barak won by a narrow margin.

The difference is that this time, according to all polls so far, the right-of-center bloc that Netanyahu heads will win at least as decisively as it did in 2009. The left-wing challengers (some of them again being helped by Greenberg) are already crowing that the Netanyahu-Obama tensions are the former’s fault, and he thereby endangers Israeli-U.S. relations. Some say Obama will exploit this to stir fears among Israelis and shift the balance to the left.

It seems, though, that even if he tries, he won’t succeed; Israelis’ perception of a dangerous Middle Eastern environment, and of Netanyahu as a leader realistically attuned to it, is too strong....

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