Despite their rocky personal relationship, an Israeli representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel said she was “very optimistic” that President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can salvage a thriving relationship.
“I think the relationship between the two countries will stay strong,” said Noga Maliniak, speaking two days after Obama was re-elected. “I believe Israel will get the support she needs from the United States whoever is prime minister in Israel.”
Maliniak, the executive shliha, or emissary, for JAFI at the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, based in Whippany, made her assessment during the 10th annual Dr. Michael Fink Memorial Lecture Nov. 8 at Temple Beth El of Somerset.
The lecture series was established by Lori and Robert Fink and is held around the anniversary of the death of their 27-year-old son, who died in 1987 from a brain tumor shortly after receiving his doctorate in psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Maliniak spoke about the relationship between America and Israel in the aftermath of the election and in advance of Israeli elections in January.
She cited surveys taken before the U.S. election indicating the majority of Israelis favored Mitt Romney over the president.
Israelis “think Obama is much more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli,” said Maliniak, a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli reserves. “There was some disappointment yesterday in Israel.”
She said unlike the close friendship enjoyed by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin — the leaders who forced the peace accords — Israelis have the perception that “Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama are not good friends.”
“They wanted a change,” said Maliniak. “They didn’t care about health care or abortion because they’re not American.”
But perhaps, she said, after the January vote, “Netanyahu will not be prime minister and his successor will get along easier with Obama.”
She based her own optimism on the historic ties stretching back from the administration of Woodrow Wilson, who gave his blessing to Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration — endorsing the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine — to Harry Truman, who supported the establishment of the new State of Israel in 1948.
Through those decades and beyond there have been public disagreements between the administrations of the two countries, Maliniak noted, but the relationship has remained “consistently strong” based on shared Judeo-Christian and democratic values, respect for human rights, common historical beginnings, and strategic alliances.
While critics of Obama pointed to his administration’s pressure over Israeli settlements in the West Bank and its outreach to the Muslim world, critics of Netanyahu have said his implicit preference for Romney and public airing of differences with Obama also soured relations between the two countries.
Nevertheless, Maliniak said, joint military maneuvers, financial aid, and friendship with Israel have continued without interruption.
In looking ahead to the aftermath of Israel’s January elections, Maliniak said, “Whoever is prime minister will work with President Obama to move things forward. Not as fast as we would like but I believe they will find common ground to go forward.”