Mitt Romney came to Israel bruised. Having shot himself in the foot by telling the truth about the complexities of organizing the Olympic Games and the myriad of problems that can arise, he wasn’t welcomed warmly in London. Maybe instead of talking about security, he should have asked about the thousands of empty seats at the sporting events and the IOC’s failure to appropriately recognize the tragedy of Munich, which was made even more disgusting by a IOC-approved tribute to the “victims of 7/7 and other loved ones lost”. If anything, Romney was too cautious in London – something that he managed to overcome on the plane to Israel.
There was a minor flap – Romney’s meeting with the Israeli Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich was cancelled abruptly two hours before it was to begin, during the Romney-Netanyahu talks – but Yachimovich herself and the Israeli press absolved the American guest from blame, taking the heat to Netanyahu instead. A few hours after Romney left, the Israeli government approved measures that would not go down well with Republican voters and that fly in the face of the Israeli Prime Minister’s fiscal ideology – in addition to spending cuts, Netanyahu introduced a number of tax hikes, to come into force immediately. The prognosis for next year’s budget includes even more tax gauging, aimed at bolstering flagging income from Israel’s diminishing export base overseas.
Between the economic troubles and the Olympics, Israelis can be forgiven for not paying close attention to the American visitor, especially since they’re been brainwashed into belief that Obama’s reelection is a foregone conclusion. To drive the point home, a leading columnist at the “Yediot Ahronot” tabloid Nahum Barnea (who, incidentally, is a board member of the Soros-sponsored International Crisis Group) chose to ignore Romney altogether and concentrated his fire on Jewish Republican donors. Confident that no one important would dare to point out his obvious connection to a very political Jewish “philanthropist”, Barnea demanded that Netanyahu tell “the Adelsons”: “Do me a favor and get off the grass, dump your trash at your own yard, we have enough of our own”.
Barnea’s message was quite clear, if obviously second-hand – by getting too close to the Republicans, Netanyahu is being ungrateful to Obama. “This administration”, – he thundered – “could just force Israel not to act, yet instead it tries to persuade us by hugging”. Other liberal commentators played the same tune – after Obama has given Israel so much money for defense, how could Romney be any better? How can Netanyahu be so irresponsible to bet on Romney instead on Obama – ‘the best friend the Jewish state ever had?’
So when the Republican candidate mounted the podium at the delightful Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood, standing opposite the Ottoman walls of the Old City, he had a tall order of business before him. He had to avoid the impression of being a political tourist in a search of a few pictures and a few bucks, he wanted to keep his word and refrain from direct attacks on Obama while on foreign soil, he desired to send a message to the Israelis that they can trust him – but more than all that, Romney, as Walter Russell Mead noted in his blog, had to transmit to the average American who supports Israel that, despite his multimillionaire background and his peculiar faith, he stands on the right side of Americanism – by standing by the Jewish state. No pressure.
Romney delivered. From the beginning, his matter-of-fact invocation of the Divine promise to the Jewish people reminded the listeners in Israel and in America, just what exactly they have been missing in Obama’s “kishkes”. For Romney, God is a natural starting point in the discussion about Israel’s place in the world and America’s relations with Israel. For Obama, God is irrelevant. Therefore, where the Republican candidate sees good and evil, and places Israel at the side of the good, Obama sees only conflicting compelling claims on the same real estate, and between the “weak” (Palestinians) and the “strong” (Jews) it is so much easier to pick the weak and to equate weakness with virtue.
In his speech, Romney appealed to the Americans who think differently, who are inclined to ask, whether the apparent weakness of one side is not an expression of his wickedness as well, and the strength of the other is not an “injustice”, but a just reward for his own behavior in accordance with the God-given rules of good and bad. Romney acknowledged “the inevitable complexities of modern geopolitics ”, but nevertheless stood by the simplest and most natural of all explanations for the Israeli-American alliance – it is a force for good in the world. Israel’s entanglement with the Palestinians went unmentioned by Romney, simply because within his worldview, this conundrum is largely irrelevant – in the end, it is the Jewish state that will have to reconcile its values and freedoms with the reality of control over millions of unwilling subjects, and when the time is right, the better nature of Israeli democracy will surely win out. Meanwhile, it is more logical and prudent to concentrate on the threats that endanger the very existence of Israel.
Needless to say, the liberals see the situation completely upside down. Since they do not trust Israeli Jews to make the right decisions on their own (they don’t trust their own citizens with their own money, so at least they are consistent), they believe the purpose of the American-Israeli alliance must be to “save Israel from itself”. This is the root of the liberal obsession with the “two-states solution”, which in liberal moonspeak usually means “giving to Palestinians what they want and forcing Israel to capitulate”. Romney, being a person of towering intellectual presence, isn’t blind to the need to find some sort of accommodation for the Palestinian problem – he just can’t accept that it is all Israel’s fault.
Here also lies the fundamental difference between Romney and Obama and his often-declared, many-times-leaked commitment to Israel’s security. For Romney, it means supporting Israel when it goes on attack against those who wish to wipe it off the face of the Earth. For Obama, it means funding “civil defense” projects like “Iron Dome” that keep Israelis in bomb shelters and terrorists alive. For Romney, it means taking concrete steps in preparation for a military strike against Iran. For Obama, it means keeping the Israelis from acting in their self-defense by any means necessary, including wasting American taxpayer’s money on giving Israel equipment that it will not be allowed to use. If you see Israel as “good”, then it is natural that the evil threatening the Jews must be confronted. If you are ready to legitimize Islamists who hate Israel just because they won a majority of votes from their benighted populace, you can find excuses for anything.
Since it is a liberal staple that Obama is a rhetorical genius, and that thunderous applause is the only possible reaction to him, Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid rushed to proclaim Romney “gray and uncharismatic”. Any reasonable Israeli (that excludes most of Haaretz’ loyal readers) should hope and pray that, come November and against all odds, Romney’s gray and simple truth will finally prevail.