November 7, 2004

No need to fear that a second-term Bush will be less of a friend.The victory of George W, Bush in the US presidential election is good news for the entire free world, even if a large part of the free world fails to recognize this, at least not quickly.

Had Bush been defeated in these elections, and even though his opponent, Senator John Kerry, would have continued the war against terror, much of the world, certainly the Islamic-Arab world, would have seen a Kerry victory as a victory for terrorism.

It also emerges, contrary to the forecasts, that the decisive consideration for most Americans was fear for their personal and national security in the face of terror, even more than concern for their livelihoods. The economic factor was not what counted but rather the security factor, even in a state like Ohio.

In Israel, people have been exercised by the question, who is better for Israel, Bush or Kerry? The question over-simplifies. US policy towards Israel is not measured only, or even mainly, by the yardstick of the friendliness of relations between the prime minister and the president. Bush will continue, forcefully, the sympathetic policy towards Israel he followed not just in his first term as president, but beforehand too.

I don’t subscribe to the theory sometimes voiced here that a president in his second term changes for the worse as far as Israel is concerned. Experience does not bear this out. Bill Clinton, a case in point, was no less friendly in his second term, while Bush senior was not especially favorably inclined towards Israel even though he was in his first, and only, term.

It is correct to assume that Bush’s second administration will make efforts to straighten out relations with Europe. But now that Bush has been elected for another four years, even Europe cannot afford to ignore the fact that the US is still the world’s only superpower, with an economy stronger than Europe’s, and certainly possessed of military capability that far outstrips that of Europe. Therefore, it will be a two-way street. The Europeans will also be looking for ways to reach out to the renewed Bush administration.

As far as the Israel-Palestinian dispute is concerned, even irrespective of the elections, Israel will have to strive in the next four years to put relations with the Palestinians and the Arab world on a permanent footing, and thus secure its vital political and security interests. The fact that there will be a president in the White House, and an administration, that are active partners of the Israeli government, among other things in outlining the disengagement plan, raises the chances that the US will stand by our side in these efforts.

This doesn’t mean that the US administration won’t want to show greater involvement than in the past, but this too will be sparingly done, and will not run counter to the trends of Israeli policy. Clearly, as ever, Israel must devote great effort to its diplomacy even towards a friendly administration.

It is obvious that any US administration, whether Republican or Democrat, will expect Israel to maintain its current economic policy, at least in general outline, as this accords with the American approach to economic issues.

(Originally appeared in Globes)

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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