Forward Thinking

Israelis Care — But Not Enough To Wake Early

By Nathan Jeffay

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Israelis professed great interest in the U.S. election — but evidently not enough to lose sleep over it.

The US-Israel time difference meant that by getting up just a few minutes early, Israelis could watch the moment of truth. The Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, with the support of the Jerusalem Post, offered people the chance to take advantage of this, with a breakfast election results party at its central Jerusalem offices. There was a light breakfast, a television stream, analysis from pundits, and so that the religiously observant didn¹t need to choose between polls and praying, space was set aside for the morning service.

But despite the thousands of American voters in and around Jerusalem, there were only 20 to 50 people there at any given time. There wasn¹t a minyan or quorum of ten men for the morning service.

Those who did go along got on well, without differences in party affiliation causing any tensions. The pundits provided some worthwhile insights.

Pollster Mitchell Barak, CEO of Keevoon Research spoke of the inevitable impact on the January 22 Israeli election, saying that ³part of the campaign here now will be who will be able to get along better with the American President.

On the day after, there has been a flurry of congratulatory statements to Obama from Israeli politicians. But first, let¹s turn our attention to the man running for the main religious-Zionist alliance Jewish Home, who saw it as fitting not only to voice disappointment at Obama reelection, but actually called him ‘evil.’ Jeremy Gimpel, an émigré from the U.S.to a West Bank settlement, also claimed that the fact that many American Jews voted for him shows they are detached from Israel.

He then cynically used this equation “Jews voted for Obama and are therefore detached from Israel” to promote his campaign for a Knesset seat as the first Anglo in the chamber. He said that there ³is a quiet Holocaust there. Half of American Jews are detached and intermarry, [but] there is not even one Anglo-Saxon representative in the Knesset for English speakers to turn to.

It wasn¹t just rightist Jewish politicians who has strong words against Obama. Ayoub Kara, an ethnic Druze lawmaker who represents the ruling Likud party, lashed out at politicians who have welcomed Obama¹s reelection, saying: All the hypocritical, cowardly Israeli politicians are giving media interviews and are suddenly showering endless praises on Barack Obama and his support for IsraelŠ. I¹m sure that if Obama had lost the elections, we¹d be hearing a different song.

He also declared: “The truth must be said. This leopard is likely to change its spots and to be very dangerous for Israel.”

Now on to the congratulations. Here is the letter which President Shimon Peres just sent to Obama, which he signs off by writing: ³Mr. President, you represent the future. Your success will be the success of us all.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite speculation that he is privately disappointed as he is widely thought to have favored Republican Mitt Romney and done little to hide it, congratulated Obama. “The strategic alliance between Israel the U.S. is stronger than ever,” he declared. “I will continue to work with President Obama to protect the security interests of Israeli citizens.”

It was interesting to see the right-wing Shas party, which draws much of its support from working class and poor Mizrachi Jews, spin Obama¹s win to bolster its election campaign. Shas MK Ariel Atias said when welcoming the Obama win: “The struggle in this election was about economic policy vis-à-vis citizens, and president Obama’s victory in this regard shows that the weak sectors demand that government won’t neglect them,” he commented.

Others who congratulated Obama include Independence Party head and DefenseMinister Ehud Barak, Yisrael Beytenu leader and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Labor party leader Shelly Yacimovich, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On.


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