At a time when politics is more about dividing people than uniting them, the upcoming elections in the U.S. and Israel may be having the opposite effect, at least upon the two nations’ leaders.
It’s no secret that Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu have their differences, both personal and political. Their opponents have tried to make hay with that, suggesting that each man has eroded the two nations’ 64-year-old alliance.
Netanyahu’s defense minister-turned-rival Ehud Barak and his supporters are suggesting that the prime minister’s cartoon of an Iranian atom bomb at the UN and his demand for a “red line” on Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program have caused a rift with Israel’s most important ally. In the U.S., Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has charged that President Obama has “thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”
Neither allegation can pass even a cursory reality check. Despite the frosty relationship between the two leaders and differences over Iran and the Palestinian issue, Israeli-American relations remain anchored by not only shared democratic values, but also $3 billion in U.S. military aid, significant exchanges of secret intelligence and a continuing supply of American defense technology.
Still, now that they’re both facing re-election — Obama on Nov. 6 and Netanyahu on Jan. 22 — the two leaders suddenly have started trumpeting what unites them instead of muttering about their distaste for one another.
So it isn’t surprising that in this month alone, among other things:
— The American administration announced that the two countries will begin their largest joint air and missile defense exercise just before the U.S. Election Day.
— Netanyahu told the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, that his government had “returned security” by, among other things, deploying the Iron Dome missile defense system — for which the Obama administration provided an additional $70 million in July.
— The two countries just signed a telecommunications agreement that’s expected to make it easier for Israeli firms to sell their products in the U.S.
— American trade officials said they’d take Israel off a Watch List as soon as the Knesset passes legislation to improve its intellectual property protection.
No bets on how long the honeymoon will last, however.