Israel Resource Review 6th November, 2008


BESA REPORT: Obama, Israel Likely On A Collision Course
David Bedein

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to have a rocky relationship with Israel, according to an academic research study published in the wake of the November 4 presidential election.

A report from the Israel-based Bar Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center (BESA) said the forthcoming Obama administration likely will clash with the next Israeli government. The report, authored by Jonathan Rynhold, cited Mr. Obama's plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and reconcile with Iran and Syria.

"Obama's preferences regarding Iran and Iraq have serious implications for Israel," the report, titled "President Obama and the Middle East Challenge," said. "If the U.S. were to leave Iraq unstable, with the perception being one of American weakness and failure, it will strengthen the resolve of all radical forces in the region that threaten Israel and its de facto allies in the Arab world, such as Jordan."

The report said Republican presidential election loser Sen. John McCain marked the "more comfortable option for Israel." Mr. Rynhold envisions tense relations between Mr. Obama and any Likud-led government in Israel. Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu has been leading in most polls in the race to be Israel's next prime minister.

The report said Israel could no longer count on Republicans in Congress to temper Mr. Obama's policies in the Middle East. Instead, Mr. Obama would be supported by a Democratic-controlled Congress and a new Jewish lobby, "J Street," that would seek to undermine the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which maintains a close relationship with the Israeli government.

Mr. Rynhold, a senior research associate at BESA, said the incoming Obama administration could retain several leading advisers long regarded as hostile toward Israel. The report cited former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

"These different approaches could all find expression in parts of the future Obama administration," the report said. "In turn, this could lead to bureaucratic in-fighting and consequently policy incoherence, as has frequently occurred in the past."

The report envisions a Middle East crisis at the onset of the Obama administration, and Mr. Rynhold writes that Mr. Obama's foreign policy would be hampered by his lack of experience and dependence on his managerial and decision-making abilities.

"The central challenge for Obama in the Middle East is neither democratization nor securing a comprehensive resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict - though those are worthy long term objectives - but rather the maintenance of a stable pro-American balance of power in the region," the report said. "First and foremost, that means dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue."

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