Enough About Israel, Already
How constant attention from the candidates hinders the Jewish state.
But reality is different.
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as important as it might be to Israelis and Palestinians, will not be a strategic life-changing event for the United States. Advisers to both McCain and Obama have recognized that, in a conference not long ago, as McCain adviser Max Boot has reported: "I said that negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian accord could not be the top priority for the next administration given all the other crises we face, Richard Danzig, an adviser to Barack Obama, said, 'I think we see this rather similarly.' " Contrary to what some Americans might think, Boot rightly explained that "if the Israeli-Palestinian dispute were resolved, it would not solve all the problems of the Middle East."
The fact that supporters of the Iraq war were also known to be supporters of Israel does not mean that Israel had anything to do with the launching of this war. This distorted theory of events was most famously detailed in The Israel Lobby, a book by professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer—and I suspect some American voters on the left still believe it. In fact, Israel barely played a role in the decisions leading to the Iraq war. As Yossi Alpher reported a year and a half ago, Israel's Ariel Sharon even warned President Bush against the war: "Publicly, Sharon played the silent ally. … Sharon nevertheless advised Bush not to occupy Iraq."
But Iran is where the most serious damage was done by the repeated mentioning, by both campaigns, of Israel as the country threatened by Iran's nuclear program. Iran poses a challenge to the United States and its interests in the Middle East, it is a threat to governments and leaders in the Arab world, it is endangering vital energy resources, and it supports terror not just against Israel.
And again, the candidates recognize all these facts but keep their focus on Israel. "What is your reading" of the threat Iran poses "to the security of the United States?" McCain was asked at the first debate. His response started in this fashion: "If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat to the state of Israel." Obama's response was no better: A nuclear Iran "would be a game changer. Not only would it threaten Israel, a country that is our stalwart ally ..."
Yes, both McCain and Obama also mentioned some of the other reasons for which a nuclear Iran will be more than just a nuisance, but they both started with Israel. Can one blame an American living under the false impression that Israel is the main, perhaps only reason for which to oppose Iranian expansionism?
One really can't. The blame for creating such impression lies with the overeager candidates, their advisers, and, to some extent, attention-seeking Israelis who all behave like the guy in this long-forgotten Queen song that "never read the signs/ Too much love will kill you."
Shmuel Rosner is a Tel Aviv-based columnist. He blogs daily at Rosner's Domain.
Photograph of Sarah Palin on the Slate home page by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.