Israel Gets a Free Pass
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
U.S.-Israel relations have remained effectively almost entirely out of the public limelight during this campaign season. Except for one segment during one Republican and one Democratic debate—as to who was more pro-Israel—there has been virtually no discussion of the Israel-Palestinian peace stalemate, settlement activity, etc. While events may overtake this quiet or may emerge in one debate, there appears to be little interest to pay attention to Jewish voters in 2016 as polls consistently have suggested that over 80% of Jews will vote for Hillary; even if some of them will do it holding their noses. (There are unlikely to be any dramatic Jewish defections even in the swing states with significant Jewish populations; Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
With Netanyahu due to arrive for the U.N. General Assembly session which begins next week on September 13, there may be a meeting between Bibi and Obama, however brief. The pending U.S.-Israel Ten Year Defense Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) appears ready for completion and may even be signed at a lower level before Netanyahu and Obama have their courtesy chat. Netanyahu needs to insure that if there is a personal meeting with Obama that it goes over without a hitch. (Bibi may also meet as a courtesy with Hillary and Trump. Given the coldness that Bibi’s benefactor Sheldon Adelson has exhibited toward Trump, however, plus the reported reticence Adelson has shown in delivering his financial pledge to the Trump campaign, it is most likely that Netanyahu will make sure that if the meeting with the nominees occurs it will be strictly pro-forma.)
The most significant positive regional development to have occurred in the Middle East over the past several months has been the extent to which Israel has been meeting formally—not only informally—with leaders of the some of the Arab countries; some of them have virtually never acknowledged meeting with Israeli diplomats. While there were meetings with Egyptian officials addressing some of the security issues as well as mutual trade interests, it is contacts and visits with the Saudis and the Emirate officials that have attracted the most public attention.
While largely motivated in developing joint strategies to deal with Iran, the nuclear weapons deal, as well as ISIS and terrorism, the significant public, diplomatic traffic ought to have received much further attention than it has received. It will be interesting to see if Netanyahu meets any of their representatives while at the U.N. as well as with ambassadors and officials of some of the African states many of which have upgraded their relations with Israel since Bibi’s recent trip to Africa.
What is important for Israel during this visit, however, is that Bibi not stir up the American Jewish community in the midst of the election circus.
Addendum to the recent column on the nature of 2016 political speech
Anyone who believes that Donald Trump has not affected the way leaders speak needs to check the way the President of the Philippines spoke about President Obama and the obscene telephone message that Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage left for State House Member Democrat Drew Gattine, which the Governor requested to be made public. In both instances, the language was disgraceful and vile. Their speech clearly reflects the gross type of language employed by Trump towards those who disagree with him during campaign 2016. It now has become acceptable in the eyes of other political leaders.