Obama, McCain and Israel Who really stands by Israel?
Obama's, McCain's worldviews provide the answer
By Yoram Ettinger
A worldview shapes presidential attitude toward Israel as a strategic asset
or a liability and toward Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Golan
Heights. A presidential worldview determines the scope of the US posture of
deterrence in face of Middle East and global threats, which directly impacts
Israel's national security.
For example, President Nixon was not a friend of the US Jewish community and
was not a leader of pro-Israeli legislation in the US Senate. In 1968, he
received only about 15% of the Jewish vote. However, his worldview
recognized Israel's importance to US national security, as was demonstrated
in 1970, when Israel rolled back a Syrian invasion of Jordan, preventing a
pro-Soviet domino scenario into the Persian Gulf. It was Nixon's worldview
which led him to approve critical military shipments to Israel - during the
1973 War - in defiance of the Arab oil embargo and brutal pressure by the
Saudi lobby in Washington, and in spite of the Democratic pattern of the
On the other hand, President Clinton displayed an affinity toward Judaism,
the Jewish People and the Jewish State. However, his worldview accepted
Arafat as a national liberation leader, elevated him to the most frequent
guest at the White House, underestimated the threat of Islamic terrorism,
unintentionally facilitated its expansion from 1993 (first "Twin Tower"
attack) to the 9/11 terrorist tsunami, adding fuel to the fire of Middle
East and global turbulence.
How would the worldview of Obama, McCain and their advisors shape US policy
1. According to McCain, World War III between Western democracies and
Islamic terror/rogue regimes is already in process. According to Obama, the
conflict is with a radical Islamic minority, which could be dealt with
through diplomacy, foreign aid, cultural exchanges and a lower US military
profile. Thus, McCain's worldview highlights – while Obama's worldview
downplays – Israel's role as a strategic ally. McCain recognizes that
US-Israel relations have been shaped by shared values, mutual threats and
joint interests and not by frequent disagreements over the Arab-Israeli
2. According to Obama, the US needs to adopt the worldview of the Department
of State bureaucracy (Israel's staunchest critic in Washington,) pacify the
knee-jerk-anti-Israel-UN, move closer to the Peace-at-any-Price-Western
Europe and appease the Third World, which blames the West and Israel for the
predicament of the Third World and the Arabs. On the other hand, McCain
contends that the US should persist – in defiance of global odds - in being
the Free World's Pillar of Fire, ideologically and militarily.
3. According to Obama, Islamic terrorism constitutes a challenge for
international law enforcement agencies and terrorists should be brought to
justice. According to McCain, they are a military challenge and should be
brought down to their knees. Obama's passive approach adrenalizes the veins
of terrorists and intensifies Israel's predicament, while McCain's approach
bolsters the US' and Israel's war on terrorism.
4. Obama and his advisors assume that Islamic terrorism is driven by
despair, poverty, erroneous US policy and US presence on Muslim soil in the
Persian Gulf. On the other hand, McCain maintains that Islamic terrorism is
driven by ideology, which considers US values (freedom of expression,
religion, media, movement, market and Internet) and US power a most lethal
threat that must be demolished. McCain's worldview supports Israel's battle
against terrorism, demonstrating that the root cause of the Arab-Israel
conflict is not the size – but the existence - of Israel.
5. Contrary to McCain, Obama is convinced – just like Tony Blair - that the
Palestinian issue is the core cause of Middle East turbulence and
anti-Western Islamic terrorism, and therefore requires a more assertive US
involvement, exerting additional pressure on Israel. The intriguing
assumption that a less-than-100 year old Palestinian issue is the root cause
of 1,400 year old inter-Arab Middle East conflicts and Islamic terrorism,
would deepen US involvement in Israel-Palestinians negotiations and
transform the US into more of a neutral broker and less of a special ally of
Israel, which would drive Israel into sweeping concessions.
Obama's worldview would be welcomed by supporters of an Israeli rollback to
the 1949 ceasefire lines, including the repartitioning of Jerusalem and the
opening of the "Pandora Refugees' Box." On the other hand, McCain's
worldview adheres to the assumption that an Israeli retreat would convert
the Jewish State from a power of deterrence to a punching bag, from a
producer – to a consumer – of national security and from a strategic asset
to a strategic burden in the most violent, volatile and treacherous region
in the world.
The writer is a Middle Eastern and American affairs expert