Obama and Livni are cast as saviours

Press ad­mir­ers are en­dow­ing the front-run­ners in the elec­tion with star qual­i­ties

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - ALEX BRUMMER

AS THE Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion reaches its cli­max, US pol­i­tics dom­i­nate the me­dia. The only other for­eign story to get much of a lookin has been the fail­ure of the Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni to forge a gov­ern­ing coali­tion in Is­rael af­ter boldly re­fus­ing to give in to what The Times called the “black­mail” of the small, strictly Or­tho­dox par­ties.

The Is­raeli po­lit­i­cal stale­mate means that the new in­cum­bent in the White House will not know un­til his pres­i­dency is well un­der way whom he will have to deal with in Jerusalem. The lat­est polls, ac­cord­ing to Ha’aretz, point to a close-fought cam­paign with Livni hav­ing a nar­row lead over Binyamin Ne­tanyahu of Likud.

De­spite his pol­ished Amer­i­can ac­cent and pop­u­lar­ity on Amer­ica’s chicken-soup cir­cuit, Ne­tanyahu is un­likely to be wel­comed with great en­thu­si­asm in Wash­ing­ton. In the past, he has proved stub­born in the face of Amer­i­can peace ini­tia­tives. As Mid­dle East ed­i­tor Ian Black ob­served in The Guardian, Ne­tanyahu “does not be­lieve in the sort of peace with the Pales­tini­ans that Kadima and its Labour party ally are pre­pared, in prin­ci­ple at least, to agree to”.

Ne­tanyahu is not the only charis­matic politi­cian seen by some in the US as a di­vi­sive fig­ure. Barack Obama does not en­joy un­bri­dled ap­proval among the na­tion’s Jews. And his “Jewish” rat­ing may not be helped by Pales­tinian Me­dia Watch re­ports of Gaza Strip ac­tivists cold call­ing Amer­i­cans to get them to vote for Obama.

But a re­port in the Jerusalem Post sug­gests that Amer­i­can Jews should not be un­duly con­cerned about an Obama pres­i­dency. Jews in his home town of Chicago who have em­ployed him, raised funds for him, and voted for him are seek­ing to re­as­sure the doubters that they have noth­ing to fear from the Demo­crat’s per­ceived soft­ness on na­tional se­cu­rity.

“He has de­vel­oped very close re­la­tions with the Jewish com­mu­nity in Chicago. If you look at fundrais­ing etc, the peo­ple who pri­mar­ily sup­port him are Jewish,” wealthy busi­ness­man Lester Crown as­sured the Post.

On the cam­paign trail, Obama made it clear that, as Pres­i­dent, he would pri­ori­tise talks to re­solve what Black de­scribes as “the world’s most in­tractable con­flict”. In this re­gard, it might be more help­ful if Livni were to be the peace part­ner. The Times noted that she is de­ter­mined to push ahead with peace talks and has even mooted di­vid­ing Jerusalem — a no-no for the Is­raeli right. Ne­tanyahu, The Times re­minded us, is an im­pla­ca­ble hawk who op­posed the An­napo­lis process be­gun by Pres­i­dent Bush last year and fears Pales­tinian in­de­pen­dence could of­fer Iran a foothold in the West Bank.

A Daily Tele­graph lead­ing ar­ti­cle ex­plored the down­side of Is­rael’s lively democ­racy: “Gov­ern­ment is be­holden to in­ter­est groups turned po­lit­i­cal par­ties, which have frag­mented the leg­isla­tive process.” What Is­rael needs out of the elec­tions, in the face of the ex­is­ten­tial threat from Iran and the Pales­tinian con­flict, the pa­per ar­gues, is res­o­lute gov­ern­ment. But then, pol­i­tics is about spe­cial in­ter­ests, as Barack Obama is acutely aware. He sur­prised even his own staff when he talked of an un­di­vided Jerusalem while ad­dress­ing the lobby group Aipac ear­lier this year.

In much the same way as Obama is seen in the UK press as a man who can trans­form Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, Livni is viewed through sim­i­larly rose-tinted spec­ta­cles.

Whether ei­ther leader is ca­pa­ble of re­solv­ing the Mid­dle East con­flict will de­pend on how res­o­lute they are in ad­dress­ing spe­cial in­ter­ests — oh, and the small mat­ter of winning the elec­tions. Alex Brummer is City Ed­i­tor of the Daily Mail

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.