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By BERNIE BELLAN The results of the Israeli election came as a bitter disappointment to me. I didn’t really know very much about  Zionist Union co-leader Isaac Herzog but, to think that this apparently ineffectual politician presented the best chance for unseating BB Netanyahu didn’t promise much hope for those among us who were hoping to see an end to Likud-dominated coalitions.

Then, when Netanyahu unleashed a series of statements shortly before election day meant to play to the worst fears of many Israelis – and those statements seemed to prove decisive in his coming from behind to win 30 seats in the Knesset – well, it just seemed to confirm all those analyses that Israel was moving ever further to the right.
What really seemed to turn the tide though, is the overt dislike most Israelis have for President Obama – and what has been described as American “meddling” in the most recent election.
“Meddling”? What do you call the Republicans’ crass ploy to involve Netanyahu in domestic American politics in a way that we’ve never seen a foreign leader involved before? And, when it comes to Americans involving themselves in domestic Israeli politics, American politicos have been active in running Likud campaigns for years.
Okay, so we know Netanyahu loves to create bogeymen for Israelis –either to fear or hate, in order to remain in power: Iranians; Arabs – especially Palestinians; and most recently, Barack Obama.
Let’s examine, for the moment, just what are some of the consequences of Netanyahu’s triumph at the polls: Increased isolation in the world community and an even further deterioration in U.S.-Israel relations.

What I find particularly difficult to accept is the absolute opprobrium attached to President Obama by so many Jews, both within and outside Israel. It seems that many Jews have very short memories, if they think that Obama is the worst president Israelis have had to deal with.
At various times during the history of Israel American presidents have either been loath to provide assistance to Israel or have been furious at what they regarded as Israeli intransigence in dealing with the Palestinians. While both Presidents Johnson and Nixon came to Israel’s assistance with massive arms shipments, and Nixon’s decision to resupply Israel when that nation’s very existence was in doubt during the Yom Kippur War proved decisive in Israel eventually turning the tide in 1973, Nixon’s National Security Adviser (later Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger, opposed the rearming of Israel until Israel’s fate was almost sealed.
President Ford halted arms shipments to Israel for a time in 1975, while Jimmy Carter has been consistently labeled as anti-Israel, if not outright anti-Semitic for advocating so arduously on behalf of Palestinians.
While Ronald Reagan has been generally regarded as one of the most pro-Israel presidents, there were  tensions during his tenure as President as well, especially over the conviction and  jailing of Jonathan Pollard.
As for Bill Clinton, while he did broker the Camp David Accords, his disdain for BB Netanyahu when Netanyahu was prime minister in the 1990s has become well known since Clinton left office.
George W. Bush, while generally maintaining good relations with Israeli Prime Ministers Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu, also played a key role in the “Roadmap” initiative, a key part of which would have involved Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories.
So that leaves Barack Obama - who is demonized on so many pro-Israel websites. Much of the venom directed against him seems to have a racist tinge as well, what with the constant references to his name: Barrack “Hussein” Obama, and concomitantly, suggestions that he is, in fact a Muslim.
The reality, however, is that the level of American aid for Israel has never been higher than during both Obama terms. While Secretary of State Kerry may have been naive in thinking that he could be any more successful in facilitating negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state than any other diplomat, is he to be faulted for going further than any other American official had ever attempted to go?
That leads us to Iran and Netanyahu’s utter contempt for Obama’s wanting to achieve a deal with the Iranians. I’ve remarked to many of the Obama critics out there when I’ve had a chance to engage  them that “the enemy of good is perfect”. Netanyahu will not accept anything in the way of a deal that, in his view, is less than perfect, which means the complete denuclearization of Iran - something that is simply not on the table.
But what if there is no deal - and Iran instead decides to return to a full-fledged effort to develop a nuclear weapon? Will Netanyahu want the U.S. to join Israel in attacking Iran? No doubt that is his hope. And what of the “blowback” that can be expected from such an initiative? Nothing could do more to unite the Muslim world than an attack on Iran. We’ve already seen the unexpected consequences of America’s two wars in response to 9-11. While the war in Afghanistan seems to have spilled over only into Pakistan, the war in Iraq has led to the destabilization of the entire Middle East and the resultant rise of terrorist groups that have overtaken Al Qasida as the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world. Add to that the almost total certainty that an attack on Iran would only delay that country’s development of a nuclear weapon by a couple of years.
In Netanyahu’s worldwide Israel stands alone - and Jews everywhere are in danger. The problem is that it is Netanyahu himself who has led to the isolation of Israel.
What is even more disturbing about his recent election victory is that, once again, ultraOrthodox parties will find themselves in government - this after a brief respite from having “Charedi” parties dictate to the vast majority of Israelis on issues of morality and, even more important - education.

The truth is that most North American Jews, notwithstanding the chatter heard over the internet, are consistently liberal in their attitudes on morality and education. Further, most North American Jews  - especially American Jews, are fully in favour of Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories (according to almost every poll that has been taken on the subject). In this regard, most American Jews are actually in sync with President Obama’s policies vis-a-vis Israel and the Palestinians - as well as his policies regarding Iran.
The schism that Netanyahu has created between Israel and the United States now extends to a schism between Israel and most American Jews. Where does that leave those among us who still hold such a special place in our hearts for Israel?
Recently I read a piece written by a student at U.C.L.A. who had been active in leading the fight against the BDS movement. That student now said that, given the results of the Israeli election, he no longer had the stomach to engage in that fight, and was acceptant of the fact that BDS proponents were going to gain the upper hand at U.C.L.A. How can young Jews be expected to carry the fight for Israel when Israel is seen as increasingly intransigent, led by a prime minister who is capable of resorting to ugly canards in order to win at the polls - not to mention completely abandoning his previously-made promise to recognize a Palestinian state?
No - it’s not President Obama we have to blame for the deterioration in Israeli-American relations. It’s the prime minister of Israel himself - and the Israeli electorate, which has once again shown that it has become much more right-wing than it had been in the past.
Still, those among us who remain committed to supporting Israel will continue to do so - but we will be even more overt in wanting to distinguish between support for Israel and support for Israeli government policies. That might make it more difficult for some of our community leaders, but we are past the point where we have to offer unconditional support for Israel no matter what the circumstances.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish all our readers a very happy Passover. By the way, I was fascinated to learn that Moshe Rabeinu and Harry Potter are both cut from the same cloth. Read how in my story about Jason Marantz’s fascinating presentation given at Limmud about “the only Jew at Hogwarts” elsewhere on this site.

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