It was already morning in Israel yesterday when the news of the US elections came in. Our outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quick to offer a generic welcome to Senator Obama, hours later Tsipi Livni, our Foreign Minister offered hers. I got their email alerts from the Government Press Office.
As for the newspapers, at least the ones that publish in English, there was no real response to Obama -- except for some pre-written stories of what he should expect to deal with vis a vis Middle East policy. Maybe because it was too early for journalists to start working, and the morning papers already out. Maybe Israelis weren't really sure what to say.
Or we'd already said too much. (Click to the US election coverage section, on Israel's English daily, The Jerusalem Post).
"It's like the whole country is in shock," said a friend of mine, a McCain supporter. We talked about the same sort of grey feeling that washed over Israelis years ago when Bush was voted in.
I was in Tel Aviv and remember the night clearly. We were sure Bush wouldn't stand behind Israel the same as Clinton. We thought Bush would spell disaster for Middle East security, and Israel. We were sure Bush was a moron. No doubt Saddam Hussein's bomb threats would grow stronger, then materialize. I had my gas mask ready, expecting the worst.
Then while all the other European leaders were talking -- in one fell swoop -- Bush eliminated Israel's worst enemy. We started to love him.
Maybe Obama will be good for the slumping US and world economy, but most Israelis are suspicious about his lack of experience. People I know, save for a few American-Israelis, would have voted for McCain. We feel insecure about Iran, and are not sure if Obama has what it takes to negotiate with a leader who wants to wipe Israel off the map. I hope he'll surprise us.
While writing this post, I picked up the latest two headlines on the JPost:
Ahmadinejad congratulates Obama, says he expects change
Iranian president urges Obama to put an end to Bush policy, which has led to "hatred of all nations, majority of gov'ts toward US leaders." (CLICK TO STORY HERE)
Livni urges Obama not to talk to Iran
Foreign Minister says engaging Teheran in dialogue at this time would project "weakness." (CLICK TO STORY HERE)
Meanwhile, while driving to Tel Aviv from Hadera today, an entourage of black trucks with a police escort sped by. It was probably Condoleezza Rice. She's in town hoping to lay the "real" foundations of Israeli-PA peace by the end of her term:
According to the Jpost:
"We'll see where they are at the end of the year," said Rice, vowing to "work on this with the parties until the day that we leave."
It's her 8th time in Israel.
With her time in office rapidly waning, Rice is hoping to shore up the fragile Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and leave a viable process for the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama.
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