Romney in Israel

Mitt Romney is to arrive in Israel this weekend, focusing the campaign spotlight not only on Israel policy, but on the American voters who live in Israel.

I get to vote for the next American president as a new oleh, an immigrant to Israel who retains American citizenship.  I am registered to vote in the November election.  That's important, because my living here solidifies my commitments to Israel.  Also, my views of the administration and events change when I watch news reports (in English) on Israeli, Russian, French, Chinese, and Arab TV stations that broadcast here, but not in America.  They have a very different take on stories from how the American press sees things.

There is a decidedly anti-Obama thread weaving through the American Jewish community in Israel.  We are uncomfortable and skeptical about his commitment to Israel.  Some believe that Mr. Obama, if not a Muslim himself, has deep sympathies for the Muslim world.  Elected to a second term, the president will pressure Israel no end to make life-threatening concessions to the Arabs in exchange for aid and protection under the American military umbrella.  This administration is setting records for military aid to Israel, and cooperation with Israel's defense and intelligence services.

Many more American citizens living in Israel are openly more strident in their antipathy for Obama and Sec. of State Clinton than are Jews I speak with in the States.  The president made several trips to the region, but he never visits Israel.  He bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia.  His Cairo speech shocked.  His public comments on 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations with the Palestinians come across as a curse, and they make his administration an anathema.  The reportedly discourteous treatment of P.M. Netanyahu in the White House adds to the anger American Jews in Israel feel; we take that personally.  The Palestinian leadership now refuses to negotiate peace with Israel until there is a freeze on new construction in the territories; this never stopped them before Mr. Obama set it as his administration's policy.  The president is enamored with the Arab Spring, while people living in Israel fear the reactionary forces like the Muslim Brotherhood taking seats of power in Arab countries.  IVoteIsrael, a voter registration NGO, believes that November will have the largest voter turnout of Americans in Israel ever.

Mr. Romney is making a hard pitch for the American vote in Israel.  He expresses almost unconditional support for this country.  His advance men like Ari Fleischer are here working the media, taking the message to the voters.  Romney is taking precious time out from his domestic campaign to fly to Israel to make a break-the-fast Tish'a B'Av speech and campaign in our community.  That adds gravitas to Israel's place on the extant Romney agenda.

Why are American Jewish voters in Israel crucial this year?  There are 163,395 of them.  More than half expect to vote this time, and 66% believe that Israel-related issues are the most important.  Only 63% of them who admit to voting for Mr. Obama last time expect to vote for him this election, according to a poll commissioned by IVoteIsrael.  The president and challenger are today polling neck-and-neck among U.S. voters.  Think Florida, where fewer than 600 votes handed Mr. Bush the presidency.

On the other hand, "it's the economy stupid," as Bush's father, Pres. George Sr., was so aptly reminded in his campaign.  Americans don't vote for a president for his stellar foreign agenda and achievements.  I, like a lot of middle-class Jews, sometimes forget that we're not white.  I am disheartened by the president's failures to fix the economy, still imprisoning captives in Guantánamo, and holding Pollard in the face of calls for his release even from Justice and CIA officials.  I am disgusted by the first family's penchant for expensive vacations. 

A really great writer, Daniel Eisenbud, writes about the toxic people we all have in our lives.  We let them have too much influence over our actions.  There are the Dream-Killers and Whiners; there is Death by Chocolate, and from the hand of Brutus.  Israel is inundated with Chocolaters: U.N. personnel, European Union leaders, U.K. prime ministers, make us feel wanted, a part of the team; they are our friends, but they turn their backs when the chips are down, talk like we're not in the room, and consistently blame us.

Is Obama a true friend?  His speeches are dream-killers for us.  He whines on, trying to suck the happiness out of our lives, while TIME Magazine writes incredulously how Israelis are happily living our lives.  Perhaps Obama and Clinton are more the bearers of decadent chocolate desserts to make us feel like a million bucks; they appear as friends, but they turn their backs on us.

Dr. Harold Goldmeier recently sold his business in Chicago and moved to Israel with his wife to teach business management in the Jerusalem College of Technology.  He is a business development advisor to several start-ups, a writer, and a public speaker on social and business matters.

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