to a War
By Uri Avnery
November 10, 2012 "Information
- BINYAMIN NETANYAHU and his patron, Sheldon Adelson, betted
on Mitt Romney, with the State of Israel as their chip.
For Adelson, the betting tycoon, that doesn’t amount to much.
Some you win, some you lose.
For Netanyahu, it’s a different matter altogether. He grew up in
the US (where he got to know Romney in 1976) and prides himself
as a great expert on America. It was one of his strongest cards,
since relations with the US are vital for Israel. Now he stands
exposed as a know-nothing, together with his ambassador in
Washington DC, who was recommended by Adelson.
Does this hurt Netanyahu’s chances in the upcoming Israeli
elections? Perhaps. But only if a credible counter-candidate is
found, who could repair relations with Barack Obama.
Ehud Olmert is presenting himself as such, and may now join the
fray. Some dream of Shimon Peres giving up the presidency to run
as a candidate. Peres, who is two weeks older than I, has never
won an election in his fifty years in politics. But there's
always a first time, isn't there?
ISRAELIS ARE, of course, interested mainly in the Jewish vote.
It is indeed revealing.
Netanyahu made no secret of supporting Romney to the hilt. US
Jews were told that voting for the Republican candidate was
voting for Israel. So did they? They did not.
I don’t yet have the detailed statistics, but from results in
Florida and other states it seems that the great majority of
Jews supported the Democratic candidate, as they have always
What does that mean? It means that one of the most basic
contentions of Netanyahu and Co. has been shown to be
Netanyahu declares almost hourly that Israel is the
“nation-state of the Jewish people”. This means that Israel
belongs to all the Jews in the world, and that all the Jews in
the world belong to Israel. So he speaks not only for the six
million Jewish citizens of Israel, but for all the 13 million or
so Jews around the globe. (Assuming that no Jews are discovered
Again, this has been proven a fiction. American Jews (or,
rather, Jewish Americans) voted as members of the American
nation, not of the non-existent Jewish nation. Many of them are
certainly sympathetic to Israel, but when it comes to voting,
they vote as Americans. Israel plays a very minor role in their
concerns. They may give a standing ovation to Netanyahu when he
visits, as American Catholics would to the Pope, but they ignore
his instruction to vote for a candidate.
This has great implications for the future. In any clash between
vital American and Israeli interests, Jewish Americans are first
of all Americans. In such a future situation, a similar
miscalculation by Netanyahu or his successors may prove fatal.
FOR EXAMPLE, about the Iran war. Israeli hawks can kiss it
I doubt that even Romney, had he been elected, would have
allowed Netanyahu to attack. Campaign speeches would not have
trumped the vital interests of the USA. He, too, would have
taken one look at the map of the Strait of Hormuz and shuddered.
Be that as it may have been, there is no chance whatsoever that
Obama will now tolerate an Israeli attack. It would have ignited
a large scale war with incalculable consequences for the US and
Americans don’t want another war. They want to get out of Iraq
and Afghanistan, in practice ceding both countries to their
adversaries. Starting another, and far bigger war in Iran is
This may be, for us, the most important result of these
WHAT ABOUT Israeli-Palestinian peace?
No doubt, chances have picked up.
I don’t want to sound too optimistic. The usual cliché says that
US presidents in their second term are free of political
pressures and can at long last act according to their
conscience. That is certainly true – up to a point.
The President is the leader of a party, and from the first day
after an election the party starts to think about the next
election. Powerful lobbies like AIPAC don’t cease to exist and
will continue to exert a lot of pressure for the Israeli right.
Big donors will still be needed. In two years, mid-term
elections will come up.
But I hope that Obama will return to his starting position and
try to compel both sides to commence serious negotiations. The
forthcoming Palestinian application to the UN General Assembly
to accept it as a state (with observer status) may be a test.
Its acceptance is of great importance, since it would put the
two-state solution squarely back on the international table. The
US has no veto power there, and it is up to the president to
decide whether to apply pressure or not.
The US is like a huge aircraft carrier. To turn around it needs
a lot of time and space. But even a slight change of course can
have a major impact on our lives.
IN ISRAEL, the major question is: Will He Take Revenge?
No doubt, Obama hates Netanyahu, and with good reason. Netanyahu
will not receive a warm welcome in the Oval Office.
But Obama is a cold fish. He will keep his personal feelings in
But how tight? Will he change his attitude towards Netanyahu and
his policies enough to give encouragement or even support to
Israeli peace forces? Will he influence the Israeli elections as
Netanyahu tried to influence the American ones?
Frankly, I hope so. For Israel’s sake.
Obama’s victory will reinforce the liberal, democratic, secular,
social-minded, less-militant spirit throughout the world. If the
Israeli government continues on its present course, its
isolation in the world will increase dangerously.
Unless we do to Netanyahu what the Americans just did to Romney.
AS EVERYBODY knows, there are some basic similarities between
the US and Israel.
Both are immigrant nations. Both were built by white settlers
who carried out ethnic cleansing. Both glorify their huge
achievements while keeping quiet about the darker sides of their
The elections in both countries illuminate another similarity:
the ever-growing split between the various “sectors” of society.
White male Americans rallied behind Romney, colored Americans
and women behind Obama. Demographic factors played a major role.
To some extent it was a rearguard action by the dominant white
male elite against the new majority of blacks, Hispanics, women
and the young.
The split was exacerbated by the Tea Party fanatics. It seems
that every few generations the American nation is afflicted by a
new wave of insanity – the anti-Anarchist hysteria after WWI,
McCarthy after WWII, the Tea Party now. To its immense credit,
America has a knack of overcoming these waves. But the Tea Party
killed Romney, in spite of all his desperate flip-flopping.
Israel has a similar split. Society is divided into sectors,
which cast their votes on sectoral lines: Whites (Ashkenazim),
Orientals, Ultra-Orthodox (Haredim), National-Religious, Russian
immigrants, Arabs. The Likud is a party of Orientals dominated
by white males. Lieberman's is the party of the “Russians”.
Together with the religious of various stripes they constitute a
powerful coalition. Unlike Obama, the Israeli left has not been
able up to now to build an effective counter-coalition.
We need an Israeli Obama, who will work with the US Obama for
Before it is too late, please.
Avnery is an Israeli journalist, writer and peace activist
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