Obama victory raises questions about future of Israel relations

November 7, 2012

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais -- AP)

In Israel, the reelection of President Obama raised immediate questions about the future of the rocky relationship between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- specifically whether in a second term Obama might be firmer with Israel on a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program and on promoting peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu quickly promised that he would continue to work with Obama “in order to assure the interests that are vital to the security of the citizens of Israel,” and he announced that he would meet Wednesday with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed confidence that it “will be possible to overcome any differences in our positions; should they arise.”

But leaders of opposition parties challenging Netanyahu in Israeli elections set for January had darker predictions. They warned of payback for Netanyahu’s berating of Obama for his policies toward Iran and negotiations with the Palestinians, and for what they described as his intervention on behalf of Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the American presidential race.

“It’s certainly not going to get easier for Netanyahu,” said Yitzhak Herzog, a Labor Party legislator. “There was anger and serious complaints about his positions, and he will have to explain himself.”

Ronni Bar-On, a lawmaker from the Kadima party who chairs parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee, criticized what he called “Netanyahu’s gamble on Romney.” He added that he hoped “Obama will be generous enough so that Israel doesn’t pay the price for this dangerous gamble.”

Palestinian officials, disappointed with what they view as the Obama’s administration’s withdrawal from peace efforts, urged him to make those efforts a priority.

“I hope it will be at the top of his agenda because no issue is more important to peace and security in the Middle East than the two-state solution,” said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.    

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Max Fisher · November 7, 2012