Abiding by political correctness, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has congratulated President Barack Obama on his re-election but there is apprehension in Tel Aviv that the next four years with the second Obama administration may not offer a smooth ride.
While he has avoided taking sides in public during the US presidential campaign, it is well known that the Israeli Prime Minister and Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama’s defeated rival, are old friends. In an article in April, The New York Times reported that the two have known each other since 1976, when they became colleagues as corporate advisers in Boston Consulting, a U.S. business consulting firm. Mr. Obama’s Democratic Party had criticised Mr. Netanyahu for allegedly intervening and siding with Mr. Romney during the presidential campaign.
Mr. Netanyahu had a difficult relationship with Mr. Obama during his first term. Mr. Obama refused to be pushed by Israel on taking action against Iran, and the White House was miffed by Israeli policy on settlements in the occupied West Bank. In September Mr. Obama declined to meet Mr. Netanyahu during his visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly session.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Netanyahu chose to deliver a terse message of congratulations to Mr. Obama after his re-election. He said that the “strategic alliance between Israel and United States is stronger than ever”, and pledged to “continue working with President Obama in order to safeguard the interests crucial for the security of Israel’s citizens”.
Some members of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party were, however, explicit in airing their misgivings about dealing with Mr. Obama in his second term. Israel’s Ynetnews quoted a Likud lawmaker as saying: “Obama is not good for Israel and we’re concerned that he will try to pressure Israel into making concessions because of his chilly relationship with Netanyahu.” The opposition Kadima party’s lawmaker, Shlomo Molla slammed Mr. Netanyahu of hurting “Israel with his arrogant and incomprehensible involvement [in U.S. elections] on the side of Mitt Romney”.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which has found little common ground with the Netanyahu administration, was quick to remind Mr. Obama that he should act against Israeli settlement activities and other violations that have targeted the Palestinian people. Top negotiator of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Saeb Erekat hoped Mr. Obama would focus on “democracy, peace and stability in the region in his second term and implement a two-state solution with Israel”.
Elsewhere in the region, Egypt warmly congratulated Mr. Obama on his victory. “We congratulate the American people on their choice and we hope the newly-elected US administration will work to achieve the interests of both the American and Egyptian people,” said presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.
Analysts say that there are more expectations from President Obama in his second term for he seemed to have failed to live up to the expectations he had raised during his stirring “new beginning” speech in Cairo in June 2009, about healing the post-9/11 rift between the U.S. and the global Muslim community.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul also congratulated Mr. Obama, and vowed to keep on track the “model partnership” between the two countries. The Obama administration has viewed the ‘Turkish model”, which combines cohabitation of democracy, secularism and Islam as a cultural force, as a framework that fledgling democracies emerging out of the Arab Spring could emulate.