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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Views From Abroad: Israel’s Effect on the Campaign

by Newsteam Staff
September 21, 2012

A Jewish worshipper leans on the stones of the Western Wall during prayers July 29, 2012. (Baz Ratner/Courtesy Reuters) A Jewish worshipper leans on the stones of the Western Wall during prayers July 29, 2012. (Baz Ratner/Courtesy Reuters)


On this week’s Views from Abroad, we head to Israel, where two hot topics are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s U.S. visit and GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s leaked comments on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

After being denied a private meeting by President Obama, Netanyahu appeared on Meet the Press and CNN’s State of the Union last Sunday (NYT) to demand that the United States draw a clear “red line” that would determine at what point it would take military action against Iran and its nuclear program.

Even if Obama’s reasoning in not scheduling the meeting is evident, it was still not a politically wise move, writes Chemi Shalev in Haaretz.

One can well understand the reluctance of the White House to schedule a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister has made surprisingly little effort to hide his preferences for Obama’s rival in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections … For all Obama knows, Netanyahu might very well end his remarks by telling Americans that ‘it’s time for change’ and flashing a placard of Romney.

Nonetheless, refusing to meet Netanyahu is a mistake. Even if it’s not an outright refusal but just a problem of venues and timetables, the decision is still a blunder. It is a political mistake, because many American Jews, even those who otherwise take a dim view of Netanyahu and his policies, are bound to be offended.

Meanwhile, Romney unintentionally entered the Israel-Palestine debate when Mother Jones released an excerpt of a video of him at a private fundraiser earlier this year, in which he said that a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine was not possible (TPM).

“Romney’s comments at a Boca Raton fund-raiser about peace being ‘almost unthinkable to accomplish’ were praised by the Israeli Right and residents of Judea and Samaria, and slammed by the Left,” writes Gil Hoffman in The Jerusalem Post.

And in China, amidst dueling cases filed with World Trade Organization this week, Wang Zonkai writes for Xinhua that “campaign politics should not victimize China-US trade ties.”

With less than 60 days to go before the presidential election, the Obama administration has resorted to China-bashing to win over swing states. It is nothing but hype and may backfire by losing votes and even risking China-U.S. trade relations.

U.S. President Barack Obama later touted the latest trade enforcement action in front of thousands gathering in Cincinnati, Ohio, trying to outdo Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney in cranking up the rhetoric against China. It is rather ironic that Romney retorted that the trade lawsuit was a “campaign season” move.

Romney also has promised to crack down on China if elected.

Moving further north, GOP nominee Mitt Romney may have declared Russia to be America’s number one geopolitical foe, but Russian President Vladimir Putin claims that he appreciates Romney’s bluntness and honesty (RussiaToday):

In weighing the comments made by President Barack Obama’s main challenger in the November elections, Putin described the “negative aspects” of Romney’s statements, while also saying that this proved him to be a “sincere man.”

“Every situation has its positive and negative aspects,” he added.

“That Mr. Romney considers us enemy number-one and apparently has bad feelings about Russia is a minus, but, considering that he expresses himself bluntly, openly and clearly, means that he is an open and sincere man, which is a plus.”

“We will be oriented toward pluses, not minuses,” Putin said. “And I am actually very grateful to him for formulating his position in a straightforward manner.”

Putin’s comments come at a time when–if they could vote–Russians would choose Obama over Romney 27 percent to 12 percent, according to the 2012 Transatlantic Trends survey.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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