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Ray Hanania
Ray Hanania
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Netanyahu's Political Fumble Empowers Obama

Comment

President Barack Obama's sweeping victory in the election this week over Mitt Romney had to be a rude awakening the hard line extremist government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu had been riding high while high-profile Romney allies were hammering Obama as being "weak" on Israel.

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who owns the fundamentalist Hebrew-language newspaper Israel Hayom, has pumped millions into Romney's campaign. Romney was given "presidential" treatment during his recent tour of Israel meeting with Netanyahu and other right-wing Israeli politicians and government leaders.

There is no doubt that Netanyahu's government put all of its money on Romney, believing Obama would be defeated this past week.

Well, the election didn't work out so well for Netanyahu. His self-created rift with Obama might serve as the foundation for a substantive change in America's subservience to Israel, the ungrateful foreign nation that thrives off of a very generous subsidy from American taxpayers.

Netanyahu's irritation began when Obama displayed an uncharacteristic understanding of the Arab and Muslim worlds. That made him look overly "sympathetic" to the Palestinians, something Israel cannot tolerate.

When Obama insisted on describing Netanyahu's expansion of illegal settlements as being "unhelpful" to the peace process in 2009, Netanyahu became angry. The following year, Netanyahu approved a massive expansion of the illegal settlements that embarrassed a visiting Vice President Joe Biden and caused the peace process to collapse. Netanyahu did everything he could to undermine Obama's efforts to kick-start the peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

When Netanyahu demanded that America commit troops to assault Iran, Obama balked and Netanyahu questioned his commitment to Israel, giving Romney and his minions an opportunity to question Obama's loyalty to Israel.

Like most Israeli officials who have seen their nation built on occupied land enjoy carte blanche from American politicians and taxpayers for most of its 65 years of existence, Netanyahu reflected an arrogance fueled by Israel's growing conservatism.

Somehow, over the years, American foreign policy and its commitment to be fair in the Middle East has been corrupted by selfish Israeli arrogance. Israeli policies that have put American presidents under Israel's political thumb, especially during presidential elections. Obama was forced to downplay his support of a Palestinian State and his debates with Romney became boisterous battles over who loves Israel more.

Netanyahu and many Israelis take America's money and support for granted. And they do so with no real loyalty to American. Israel expects America to support it, not based on earned privilege but rather as an entitlement.

When American generosity is met by Israeli ungratefulness, Americans should wonder.

And no one has been more ungrateful than Netanyahu who immediately thrust himself into the presidential battle supporting Romney.

Netanyahu insists he never endorsed anyone but the claim is ridiculous. He did everything he could to undermine Obama, including sabotaging the peace process with the Palestinians in order to impact the election.

The Netanyahu scheme almost worked. Except, Romney lost. In fact, Obama's defeat of Romney, in the face of such a hard press by Israel to make itself the election issue, is an embarrassment for Netanyahu. Although Netanyahu tried, Israel never became the decisive campaign issue in the Obama-Romney battle.

Netaynahu's conduct was inappropriate. But it gives Obama an opportunity to escape from Israel's political influence and put America's best interests first. Those interests are best served by pushing Israel to make a genuine and fair peace with the Palestinians and to review the massive financial support the U.S. provides to Israel, especially at a time when America is experiencing a devastating economic crisis.

Obama will begin his second and final term, meaning he doesn't have to worry about whether Netanyahu or the pro-Israeli movement supports him or not. Their support becomes far less important.

What matters is whether the Arab world can recognize this opportunity to help Obama away from Israel's domination.

Saudi Arabia has done all it can to help ease the burden of skyrocketing oil prices, thus reducing the costs of gasoline to the economically burdened American people.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas might reconsider his own part in helping Obama, possibly reversing his plans to seek an upgrade in Palestine at the United Nations to observer status.

The Arab world can give Obama exactly what Israel refuses to give Americans, some respect. The Arab world can act in strategic alliance with American, rather than shooting down opportunities from their emotional whim.

Obama's second term gives him the opportunity to stop pandering to Israel's powerful pro-Israel lobby. Obama can stand firm on the promise to bring fairness to the Middle East, which means forcing Israel's arrogant government to compromise.

Obama can build a new coalition by focusing on more reasoned American Jews who put American interests above blind allegiance to Israel's extremist policies by voting for Obama.

Coupled with patience from the Arabs and a new cooperation with more moderate American Jews, Obama can nudge Israel back to the peace table by ending its policies of expanding of illegal settlements. Israel might finally recognize Palestine's right to exist, finally embrace the exchange of occupied lands for peace and recognize the historic injustice committed against the Palestinian people.

This is an opportunity for the Arab world, and for moderate American Jews, to do the right thing.

Peace can happen if both Arabs and Jews can contain their extremist elements and set aside their selfish pride.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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