It was just a few days ago in Ohio that President Barack Obama told supporters to not waste their energy “booing” Mitt Romney. “Don’t boo, vote! Vote! Voting’s the best revenge!” he said.
On Wednesday, that loaded word – revenge - reappeared on the Israeli front.
Now that he’s been elected to a second term in office, would President Obama be inclined to take revenge on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his perceived preference for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney? That’s the crux of a question that was asked of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro -- who was appointed to his position by President Obama -- at a Wednesday morning academic forum.
US ambassador Daniel Shapiro ruled out the possibility that President Barack Obama will harbor ill will towards Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the latter’s perceived support for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the US presidential campaign.
Shapiro spoke at a panel held at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University Wednesday morning, shortly after preliminary results published in the US indicated Obama’s victory.
“Anyone who knows the president understands that this is not how he thinks,” Shapiro said, adding that talk of revenge against Israel for Netanyahu’s political preferences was “ridiculous.”
“The president is a strategic thinker; his policies are not governed by emotion,” he said.
The Times of Israel provides the context of the discussion:
Shapiro was responding to comments by co-panelist Sallai Meridor, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, who claimed that Netanyahu’s reported antipathy towards Obama would inevitably affect Israel-US relations.
“Obama will be less restrained by political considerations [in his second term],” Meridor told the audience, adding that the tenuous relations between the Israeli and American administrations during Netanyahu’s tenure “will not evaporate.”
In a separate Times of Israel article, Reporter Raphael Ahren described the depth of the concern:
Still, some pundits fear a reelected Obama will seek revenge on Netanyahu. Revenge for the obstinacy on the peace process, revenge for being too pushy on the Iranian question, revenge for openly challenging him during a heated election campaign — and revenge, of course, for Netanyahu’s alleged meddling in the US elections politics, by being overly warm to Mitt Romney.
After all, these pundits argue, Obama only played nice to Israel during his first term (and “nice” is a relative term) because he knew he would never stand a chance of reelection if he vexed the powerful pro-Israel camp. But now that Obama has a free hand to do as he pleases, no longer dependent on voters, the fear is that he could seek to justify the Nobel Peace Prize he received in 2009 and increase pressure on Israel to make difficult concessions to restart the peace process.
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was also asked Wednesday to weigh in on the “revenge” fears. He contends Obama won’t now “take revenge on Israel.” According to Israel Hayom, Ayalon said:
He will focus on his legacy; mostly on internal issues, on foreign policy and especially on the Arab world. He understands that it will be hard for America to change things and to influence the tide. On Iran he may be more effective. It's not a bad thing if he goes into direct negotiations with Iran as long as it's not in the place of sanctions; they must go together. Prime Minister Netanyahu will support that and I support that. Our goal is to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Obama has the teams on the ground, he has international legitimacy against Iran, more than Romney would have had.
Though Netanyahu never voiced any preference publicly, the tense personal relations with Obama and his hawkish views that were more in line with those of the defeated GOP contender left a clear impression.
And the fence-mending has begun. On Wednesday, Netanyahu met with Ambassador Shapiro to convey his congratulations on Obama’s reelection. This is the same diplomat with whom Netanyahu – as TheBlaze reported over the summer – got into a heated, and very undiplomatic argument over what Netanyahu reportedly believed to be Obama’s ineffective Iran policy.
Here is a clip (via Ynet) of the Ambassador Shapiro’s remarks on Wednesday, in which he discusses President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security: