Gur Salomon
November 4, 2010 - 12:00am

The Republican party's victory in the U.S. House of Representatives has made Israeli media to think its impacts on President Barack Obama's Middle East policy, U.S.- Israeli relations and the future of the stalled Israeli- Palestinian peace talks.

Despite Obama's attention to the foreign policy front, with most efforts channelled to broker a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal, U.S. analysts attribute the Democrats' loss of control over Congress to American voters' dissatisfaction with Obama's economic policies.

The Israeli media is now pondering if Obama's failure at home will lead him to invest more resources on the foreign policy.


According to an analysis published Wednesday on local newspaper Ha'aretz, Israel stands to enjoy a radically changed treatment from Washington.

Eric Cantor, a Republican representative from Virginia, told the newspaper's Washington correspondent last week that a Republican Congress would "have a tangible impact on improving the U.S.-Israel relationship."

The Republicans are likely to adopt a "tougher stance on Iran" and pressure the Obama administration to change its attitude towards Israel by "being easier" on the Jewish state, Cantor said.

"The system of checks and balances permits us to apply oversight to the administration's foreign policy," Cantor told Ha' aretz, adding "if we regain the majority, we will use our larger platform to make the case that a strong Israel is firmly in the strategic and moral interests of the United States."

The report highlights the names of "pro-Israel" Republicans slated to become leading figures in the new House of Representatives, John Boehner from Ohio, expected to be its new speaker, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, destined to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Israeli decision-makers can also take comfort in the words of Matt Brooks, a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who told Ha'aretz that he is confident that the U.S. internal debate about Israel "can only strengthen support for Israel."


On Tuesday, as American voters swarmed ballot boxes, an editorial of The Jerusalem Post analyzed Obama's anticipated loss as his opportunity to learn from failure.

While attributing the foreseeable loss to Obama's economic policies, the newspaper suggested that foreign policy dissatisfaction, "including where this region is concerned," is a factor that may had also played into Republican hands.

"Polls have consistently shown that Americans want their president to be pro-Israel and that many Americans and Israelis do not believe the policies of the Obama administration thus far have fit that description," The Jerusalem Post said.

Obama heeded the calls with a warm welcome to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in July. But last month he retreated once again in his speech to the UN General Assembly, in which he called on Netanyahu to extend the moratorium on West Bank settlement construction, the editorial said.

With his eyes set on the 2012 presidential elections, Obama now has "at least two and possibly six years to adjust his course... and better serve the emphatically shared Israeli-American interest in finding a viable, stable accommodation with the Palestinians," the newspaper said.


Shimon Shiffer, a veteran political analyst for the daily Yediot Aharonot, advises all those who think of exploiting the new Congress to undermine Obama to avoid making a "fatal error."

"While people close to Netanyahu may be overjoyed today by Obama's expected defeat (in the mid-term elections), he is still the captain," Shiffer wrote on Wednesday.

Netanyahu, Shiffer said, realizes Israel's heavy dependency on the goodwill of the current U.S. administration, regardless of the new shift of power in the Congress's corridors. That is why his office issued a statement on Tuesday about his intention to present "new ideas" on ways to reignite the stalled peace talks during his visit to the U.S. next week.

The Israeli prime minister, Shiffer notes, is also expected to agree to extend the construction moratorium in a limited format " since he understands that he desperately needs U.S. assistance to counter the threats against Israel's security."

Netanyahu may meet a different Obama following the Republicans' seizure of Congress, an Obama who may focus more on stabilizing his domestic standing and less on solving the ills of the Arab- Israeli conflict, an Obama who may very well not provide the response to the Iran issue that Netanyahu is hoping for, Shiffer said.


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