New American voters could alter US position on Israel
IF reports out of Jerusalem are to be believed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is running scared following Barack Obama’s re-election to a second term as president.
Netanyahu, whose confidence as a leader and faith in the United States as an ally to Israel got the best of him, committed three political sins during the US presidential election season: He openly courted the Republican Party, endorsed Mitt Romney as the next president and presumed to lecture Obama on how to handle Iran.
Now Netanyahu is thinking that perhaps his brazen insults to Obama were not politically astute. Netanyahu called Obama following the president’s re-election to congratulate him on his victory and to emphasize that Israel’s relationship with the US is “rock solid.”
The prime minister is hoping to shore up some of his lost capital with Israeli citizens who complained that Netanyahu was too quick to hitch his wagon to the Republican Party and consequently jeopardize Israel’s longstanding alliance with the US.
Netanyahu’s meddling in the US elections may very well leave Obama cold to offering any support for an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, especially since the American public has little appetite in engaging the US military in another attack on a Muslim country.
Bar-Ilan University’s Eytan Gilboa, who is an expert on US-Israeli relations, told the Washington Post recently that Netanyahu may face tough opposition in the Jan. 22 Israeli election.
“Netanyahu is vulnerable on national security and foreign policy, because the opposition will argue that given his bad relationship with Obama and given the need to make critical decisions about Iran in the spring or the summer, he should be replaced,” he told the Post.
That said, Netanyahu shouldn’t worry too much. The US is still committed to Israeli interests and Obama is not going to throw out a 64-year relationship because Israel attacks Iran. The US will have no choice but to support Israel, even if it must hold its nose to do so.
The more important reason that Netanyahu doesn’t have much to worry about during Obama’s second term is the president’s commitment to domestic issues.
Judging from Obama’s post-election comments, Israel doesn’t even register on the White House’s radar. Obama has backed off any attempts to have the US play a serious role in the region’s affairs following his failure to engage the Israelis and Palestinians in meaningful negotiations to pursue a two-state solution and for Israel to cease its expansion of settlements in the West Bank.
Indeed, Obama winning a second term didn’t mean he received a mandate from the American people that his domestic and foreign policies were spot on. No, he received a mandate to fix the economy as unemployment hovers around 8 percent, get out of Afghanistan, stay out of Syria, reform immigration laws and develop a functional relationship with Congress.
Israel? That’s far down the president’s to-do list.
And that is bad for Israel. Netanyahu may have sabotaged his future with the United States by placing his faith in white American Christian conservatives to put pressure on the White House to support his ambitions against Iran and to support his resistance to engage the Palestinians.
But if the presidential election has told us anything this past week it’s that the influence of white Christian conservatives is waning and a new American demographic is emerging. Blacks make up 13 percent of the registered voters with Obama winning 93 percent of their votes. Latinos account for 10 percent of the registered voters, with 71 percent voting for the incumbent. That’s up from 67 percent for Obama in 2008. And Asians made up 3 percent of the registered voters in the presidential election with 73 percent voting for the president. In addition, 55 percent of all female registered voters cast ballots for Obama.
Poll after poll show that Latinos want Obama to address jobs and revive the economy. Domestic issues, not foreign policy, was the driving force behind the president’s victory. In one poll, 59 percent of American registered voters said the economy was the country’s top issue. Eighteen percent of the voters said that health care was the second most important issue. The federal deficit was third among 15 percent of the voters. Foreign policy trailed badly as an important issue among just 5 percent of the voters.
Latinos remain the fastest growing minority in the United States. In 2010, it consisted of 16 percent of the population and is projected to rise to 30 percent by 2050.
The influence Israel counts on is the older, wealthy white American population that holds traditional views and unwavering support about its place in the Middle East.
Yet the American voters who flexed their muscles last week — the enthusiastic and newly powerful black, Latino and Asian voter — have a different vision that looks inward. If the progressive trend to focus on domestic issues among minority voters continue, Israel could very well find itself allied with an America no longer interested in Israel’s inability to solve its problems with its neighbors.