With less than 100 days until election day, campaign 2012 is picking up steam in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities. For months, the Obama administration has been steadily ramping up its outreach toward Jewish voters. In recent days, Governor Romney has engaged in an Israeli media blitz ahead of his much-anticipated and greatly hyped visit to Israel. Now that Romney has delivered his “Israel speech” (in Jerusalem, no less), we can be fairly certain about what the presidential campaign will look like with regard to Israel.
Over the coming months, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will attempt to color themselves blue and white, as they woo the pro-Israel vote. Each will paint himself as the pro-Israel candidate par excellence. Both candidates will talk tough on Iran, asserting their heartfelt preference for a diplomatic solution while keeping the military option “on the table.” Both will invoke the sacred cows of “shared values,” “freedom,” “democracy,” and “common interests.” Both candidates will pay lip service to “peace” and “security.”
Given their innumerable similarities, the candidates will undoubtedly try to conjure stark contrasts between one another.
President Obama will run on his record. He will tout his foreign policy experience over the last four years, having weathered endless domestic and international crises while Romney was off honing his skills as a professional presidential candidate. Obama will point to the closest military and intelligence cooperation in the history of US-lsraeli relations, as well as the unprecedented international sanctions against Iran. He may even hint at the US’s role in covert efforts to stymie the Iranian nuclear program, particularly if the polls are close.
We can also expect a history lesson in international diplomacy from the president. It will begin with the administration’s rejection of the Goldstone report and his support for Israel after the flotilla debacle. The president will undoubtedly remind us of his veto of a UN security council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, and his successful abortion of the Palestinians’ statehood bid at the UN.
Of course, Governor Romney will counter with a history lesson of his own. He will begin with the administration’s willingness to publicly confront Israeli settlement policy from day one of the Obama presidency. He will likely criticize the administration’s conciliatory gestures toward the Arab and Muslim world as evidence of the administration’s willingness to cozy up to America’s foes while “throwing Israel under the bus.” We will be reminded of Obama’s failure to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table during the ten months of Israel’s partial settlement freeze. We will surely be urged repeatedly not to forget Obama’s supposed call for Israel to return to the “indefensible” borders of 1967.
We may also expect Governor Romney’s erstwhile allies in the conservative media to paint a rather unflattering picture of the incumbent president. Much ado will be made of President Obama’s posture while shaking hands with Arab monarchs. We can expect to hear about the president’s failure to visit Israel, and his supposed belief that Israel exists solely as a result of the Holocaust.
President Obama’s landmark address to the Muslim world at Al Azhar University will be quoted at length, particularly those portions of the speech which were plainly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. President Obama’s call for the Arab world to recognize Israel and abandon the pipe dream of a massive return of Palestinian refugees to Israel will magically vanish from the historical record.
Amid all the spin and counter-spin, one hopes that baseless, xenophobic conspiracy theories will stay out of the public discourse during this campaign season. Yes, some GOP members of Congress have begun to make the ludicrous claim that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the administration. Nevertheless, we may yet hope for a campaign free of fear-mongering and paranoia. This is largely thanks to Speaker John Boehner and Senator John McCain, who have demonstrated that sanity and common decency still have a place in the Grand Old Party. In addition, the fact that President Obama has ordered the targeted killings of countless jihadists, including Osama Bin Laden, may also dispel the borderline-psychotic notion that President Obama harbors sympathy for Islamist terrorists.
When all is said and done, when the spin-meisters finally take a breath while the votes are cast, and the networks color their electoral maps blue and red, three things will become abundantly clear. First, Barak Obama will win an overwhelming majority of the Jewish, pro-Israel vote, because most Jewish supporters of Israel care more about Israel’s security than they do about settlements. Second, Mitt Romney will secure the reluctant but overwhelming support of the Evangelical pro-Israel vote, since Evangelicals are less concerned with securing Israel’s viability as a Jewish and democratic state than they are with the apocalyptic notion of a second coming triggered by a Jewish return to the whole of Biblical Israel.
Finally, it will become abundantly clear that foreign policy, even Israel policy, will have little to do with deciding this election.