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Obama and the electoral nuclear time bomb (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Abraham Ben-Zvi 08/19/12) Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=2434
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Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger´s famous observation — that Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic politics — has been underscored by the exchange between the U.S. and Israel over the past several days.
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On the one hand we have "all the president´s men" exuding optimism over the sanctions´ chances of success in deterring Tehran, but on the other hand, this upbeat approach is mixed with a healthy dose of pessimism over Israel´s capacity to single-handedly remove the ever- growing threat from Iran. President Barack Obama´s electoral calculations and political constraints largely reflect this mindset.
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A common misperception is that an incumbent administration would benefit from a regional flare-up by rallying the public around it (assuming a president is up for re-election). A sitting president´s experience and familiarity with foreign affairs and national security matters are usually his strong suit in such cases. But the truth of the matter is that with every new Israeli statement on Iran, the White House´s level of anxiety soars to new heights.
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Although this is partially a result of Obama´s concern that a conflict in the Persian Gulf (even without the U.S. involvement) might dash his hopes of reconciling with the Muslim world, his main concern revolves around more subtle issues and mundane scenarios. Utopian dreams do not top his list of concerns.
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While it´s true that Obama currently enjoys a 4 percent lead over Republican rival Mitt Romney, this advantage could disappear overnight due to the dynamic nature of the race. Moreover, polls show that on the issue of who would be a better steward of the sluggish U.S. economy (with unemployment currently at 8.3%), American voters have clearly parked their support with the former Massachusetts governor.
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That is why the notion of an Israeli strike on Iran´s nuclear facilities on the eve of the elections has had administration officials petrified due to the economic ramifications it entails: a wholesale spike in the price of oil and more economic travails for the euro zone, which could spill over to the U.S. economy. Such a scenario would make the idea of new economic leadership in the White House even more appealing.
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To defuse this ticking time-bomb and avert such a nightmarish scenario — at least in the short run — Washington has recently devised a new carrot-and-stick policy: On the one hand, the administration was quick to offer Israel a new comprehensive aid package in the hope that these confidence-builiding measures (along with more severe sanctions on Iran) would increase its sense of security and possibly have it shelve the military option. This has come alongside an all-out and intense media campaign whose main objective is to convince wide swaths of the general public in the U.S. and Israel to reject a military confrontation for now, at least until the elections are over.
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In 1956, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion´s decision to launch the so- called Sinai Campaign a week before the U.S. presidential elections produced a major rift with President Dwight D. Eisenhower (although the Suez Crisis did not affect his highly successful re-election bid). What happens after Israel launches a military campaign against Iran will only be determined in the days and months to come. Time will tell whether it is Obama who will have to deal with the consequences of such a strike come Jan. 20, 2013, the date in which a president-elect or a re-elected president will take the oath of office.
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