Israelis have mixed feelings about ‘the newcomer’
President-elect Obama’s plan for Israel comes under question
While President-elect Barack Obama said he intends to keep Israel’s security a priority, some Israelis think Obama lacks a clear plan to establish peace between Israel and Palestine.
Maurice Roumani, a visiting professor of political science and the Middle East, said there are mixed feelings among Israelis about Obama.
“There are those that say he’s a newcomer, he doesn’t have experience,” he said. “On the other hand, he’s also regarded as a newcomer with new ideas. His appeal is taken by different groups in different ways.”
Roumani said Israelis are largely waiting to see what kind of foreign policy an Obama administration will enact. He said until he knows exactly how Obama will govern, it will be difficult to determine his foreign policy approach in the Middle East.
“Israelis are pragmatic,” Roumani said. “They would like to see what’s going to be in the field. Not theory, but facts on the ground.”
Roumani said achieving Obama’s goal to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians will depend on whether or not the next administration makes an effort to understand the area’s cultural history.
“The Americans have always been naïve about the Middle East and understanding the mechanisms of the system, both human and governmental systems, and how they work,” he said.
International business junior Daniel Reches, a dual-citizen of the U.S. and Israel, said it will be difficult to predict how Obama’s election will affect Israel until Israel elects a new leader in February.
“You have an American president-elect who is very pro-Israel like Barack Obama, and at the same time, [Israel] is not sure what direction it will take in terms of foreign policy,” said Reches, political activities coordinator for Sooners for Israel.
Reches said that of the two viable candidates in the upcoming Israeli election, Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu, Livni’s approach to foreign affairs is comparable to that of Obama.
“Tzipi Livni supports a more direct dialogue, something more down the line of what Obama would like to see,” he said. “On the other hand, Benjamin Netanyahu favors a much stronger, much more assertive and dominate foreign policy, which is less down Obama’s alley.”
Netanyahu’s more conservative Likud party is currently ahead, according to two recent Israeli newspaper polls.
Reches said he thinks Obama will strengthen the U.S. government’s alliance with Israel based on Obama’s votes in the Senate, as well as his cabinet appointments, such as Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who is expected to be appointed Secretary of State today.
Reches said he supports Clinton’s possible appointment to Secretary of State because of her positive stance on Israel.
“I think Obama and his administration will definitely support the Israeli people’s ability and right to determine their own future as it comes to diplomatic and foreign policy issues,” Reches said.