Last November, a microphone caught an interesting conversation at the G-20 summit. Unaware that they were being recorded, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy complained about the Israeli prime minister, and Obama answered, “You’re fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day!” The key take-away from this incident, other than to make sure the microphone is off, is that the American president talks to the Israeli prime minister on a daily basis.
As an Israeli, I can tell you that American elections are almost as influential on Israeli politics as our own elections. I have often discussed today’s elections with Yale students who are genuinely concerned about the fate of Israel. When I did, many described a dilemma they faced: the Democratic Party might match many of their values, but it does not support Israel as much as the Republican Party, especially regarding the Iran crisis. I’d like to explain why, in my opinion, there is no conflict here.
President Obama does support Israel. He opposes a certain foreign-affairs policy, namely an attack on Iran. It’s not just Obama — according to a poll made by “Maagar Mochot,” an Israeli research institute, 59 percent of the Israeli public thinks an attack could still be avoided. Regardless of whether a strike on Iran would be the right move, Obama does not oppose Israel, but the policy of the current Israeli government — a policy which many Israelis oppose as well, and one they are glad to see Obama preventing. Moreover, even if attacking Iran were the wish of the majority of Israelis, “supporting Israel” does not necessarily mean supporting its every caprice. Helping Israel, more a protégé of the US than its ally, can sometimes mean restraining it.
An Israeli attack on Iran would have consequences reaching far beyond the two nations. From the previous Head of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, there’s a wide consensus that an attack could lead to a major regional conflict. For decades, Israel’s defense and safety have relied directly on the US, its faithful ally. In the last decade, the US suffered a series of natural disasters, an oil spill, a harsh economic crisis and two wars in the Middle East. Therefore, it is understandable if it’s reluctant to give Israel “a blank check to take action,” as Gates has phrased it. Israel owes much to the US. Asking to withhold, for now, an attack that might ignite a wide-scale regional conflict and drag the US into yet another war in the Middle East is not too much to ask.
The purpose of this article is not to argue whether an attack on Iran in present-time is the right solution or not. The purpose is merely to suggest that if you believe that it’s the wrong solution, then voting for Obama does not conflict with Israel’s best-interest. When you go to the polls today, remember that supporting Israel might in some cases mean objecting to its current policy. Remember that it’s no shame to say, “This does not end in Israel. This is a world-wide issue, and we get a say in this.” And remember that many people, in Israel and the entire world, are waiting breathlessly to see what American voters decide, hoping the results save them from war.
Dan Nahum is a freshman in Silliman College and a former soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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