Voters to Obama: Move Now on Palestine
Joy and relief are evident on the faces of the Obama family, shown here arriving back in Washington, the day after the election. Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney November 6, was also a moment of deep satisfaction for that segment of the American voting public that longed for a happy ending to what has been a bitter, contentious presidential campaign.
The “dark moon” that rose after Obama’s dismal first debate performance, was finally blown away. The people had voted, many standing in Republican-engendered long lines, lines that in Florida continued until 1:30 a.m., several hours after Mitt Romney conceded. Except for North Carolina, every swing state went for Obama.
The voters wanted Obama to have a second term. They made him the first second-term Democratic president to win a majority of the popular vote since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Bill Clinton won his second term with less than a majority of the popular vote.
This strong election victory sent two message to the President: The majority of voters did not trust Romney’s economic policies, and they are tired of fighting Israel’s wars. Implied in that second message is a demand: Move now on Israel’s decades-old occupation of the Palestinian people. In short, move now on Palestine.
To those who would say, there was no mandate on Palestine in this election, let them listen to the music, not just to the words. Israel’s wars come directly from its Occupation of Palestine. End the Occupation, and you end Israel’s embrace of military solutions. Now is the time to move on Palestine.
Israeli loyalist and casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson does not believe this, which is why he gambled on a Mitt Romney victory over Obama. Adelson also gambled with heavy spending on carefully chosen congressional races. He was a big loser in this election.
Adelson lost the $20 million investment he gave to Romney’s super PAC. In addition, the Jewish publication, Forward, lists other Adelson loses in targeted congressional races. Adelson gave $1.5 million to the campaign of Republican George Allen, who lost his bid for a Virginia Senate seat to Democrat Tim Kaine. Other Adelson Republican congressional bets included a $1 million contribution to Florida Republican Connie Mack, who lost in his attempt to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.
In New Jersey, Democratic 9th District Congressman Bill Pascrell (shown here) faced a general election opponent, Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a Republican on a “fool’s errand” who chose to run against Pascrell in a district drawn as a Democratic district. Earlier this year, Pascrell had won a primary race against his fellow Democrat and AIPAC–supported opponent, Steve Rothmand.
In spite of the unfavorable odds, Adelson gambled on Boteach in the general election, giving Boteach’s Patriot Prosperity PAC, $1 million. Adelson and his wife also gave Rabbi Boteach’s campaign, $10,000. Boteach lost to Congressman Pascrell.
These congressional races should be received as messages to President Obama. What these losses say to the President is that heavy spending from pro-Israel billionaires do not automatically produce election winners.
Another message to Obama comes in the dismal electoral failures of two Tea Party heroes, Joe Walsh and Allen West, two Republicans who drew criticism for implied and/or actual signs of Islamophobia.
In Illinois, Joe Walsh lost his Congressional seat to his Democratic opponent, Iraqi war veteran Tammy Duckworth.
Walsh received considerable outside Republican funding to hold on to his district seat. His opponent lost both legs and a partial loss of one arm, after being shot down in her Apache helicopter in Iraq. Instead of acknowledging her sacrifice and moving on, Walsh criticized Duckworth’s references to her war experiences, not a good campaign move.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), reported on Walsh’s use of Islamophobic language in his campaign:
Earlier this year, when a town hall meeting attendee told him that he was “looking for some godly men and women in the Senate, in the Congress, who will stand in the face of the danger of Islam,” Walsh left the door open for suspicion of every Muslim living in Illinois when he responded saying radical Islam is more of a threat “now that it was right after 9/11″, and “it’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin. It’s here.”
A report on the Walsh charge, which he refused to withdraw, ran on a Chicago television station.(click to view.)
Congressman Allen West, an African-American Iraqi war veteran, is described in glowing terms in a book entitled, The Teavangelicals, written by conservative Christian journalist, David Brody. The title comes from an amalgamation of Tea Party and Christians evangelicals. Here Brody explains the appeal West has to evangelicals:
Specifically, evangelicals will be attracted to his strong defense of Israel and his absolute obliteration of radical Islam. Be forewarned if you try to defend radical Islam through the Koran at a town meeting, you had better be ready to get a mouthful from West. An employee for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) showed up at a Pompano Beach, Florida, event asking him to point to a spot in the Koran where it tells Muslims to kill Americans.
West swatted the question away, telling him that it wouldn’t say that because America wasn’t even around when the Koran existed. But that wasn’t the end of it . . . . not by a long shot. West continued to point out a series of Muslim aggressive acts over the centuries and concluded by telling the questioner, “Don’t come up here and try to criticize me! Put the microphone down and go home” (page 153).
Congressman West was defeated in his attempt to return for a second term to the House of Representatives. West initially refused to concede, even though a 2500 vote margin enjoyed by his opponent, was outside the state’s mandated vote percentage recount. Friday afternoon, a Florida judge rejected West’s appeal for a recount.
There was also a notable example in a Wisconsin election that attacks against political opponents as “anti-Israel” no longer produce the automatic silver bullet of certain defeat. In the race for a vacant Wisconsin Senate seat, former Republican Governor and Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson, alleged that his Democratic opponent, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, was “anti-Israel”.
It didn’t fly very far. The charge was reported in local media but it did not gain much additional traction. The allegation also did not reach national prominence. Why would it? Congresswoman Baldwin was already known in the national media as the candidate who might become the first openly lesbian U.S. Senator. Baldwin won the Senate seat, another indication that being called “anti-Israel” is losing its potency.
One election does not a movement make. But this one election sent a series of messages to President Obama. His victory should enable him to “conduct policy with much more vigor”, as Palestinian Journalist Daoud Kuttab explains in a posting for Huffington Post.
Reelected U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to be able to conduct policy with much more vigor. While on domestic and economic issues he will need to work with a Republican House (the Senate will be Democratic), foreign relations is where the executive branch (the White House and the State Department) has the ability to apply his policies.
America’s first African American president who grew up in several parts of the world should be able to produce a foreign policy much closer to his heart and beliefs without having to worry about another election. Second-term U.S. presidents, who naturally care about their legacy, often look overseas to find ways for history to remember them.
War and peace cannot be addressed in any part of the world more than in the Middle East, where the U.S. is fighting a war in Afghanistan and will continue to need to win the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims. Obama’s win also signals a clear vote of confidence from American Jews who voted for him. More than 70 percent of U.S. Jews supported the president (unlike American Israelis who supported Romney).
President Obama no longer has any need to bend to the will of the Israel Lobby. His reelection and a second term removes him from ever again having to raise campaign funds or to be swayed from his core convictions by political expediency. Now is the time for this reelected President to make peace in the Middle East his highest foreign policy goal.
The voters have spoken: Mr. President, you are free to move now on Palestine.
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The picture of the Obama family, at top, is by Doug Mills of the New York Times.
Filed under: Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Politics and Elections, Romney | 13 Comments