Editor’s Notes: America energized

By David Horovitz November 7, 2008

Barack Obama’s dazzling electoral success was built on that empowering ‘Yes, we can!’ mantra. His presidential success will depend on defeating those malicious global forces that peddle darkness and misery, and that are sneering to themselves right now: ‘No, you can’t’

It was a near impossible task. A largely unknown freshman senator. A largely unknown black freshman senator. A largely unknown black freshman senator facing off, most arduously, against the might of the Clinton political machine, and then against the power and the resources of the Republican Party.

But winning over his country, as President-elect Barack Obama did so extraordinarily this week – triumphing with astonishingly wide and representative support from an America hurting financially, bloodied internationally and desperately seeking a fresh, new and confident leadership – was nonetheless the easy part.

The real job starts now.

In his victory speech, only the latest example of his consistently soaring oratory, Obama hailed the dazzling election outcome as a response from those ‘who’ve been told for so long, by so many, to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve,’ but who had nonetheless ‘put their hands on the arc of victory’ and bent it ‘once more toward the hope of a better day.’

Americans plainly did precisely that – they voted their faith in Barack Obama’s ability to achieve a ‘better day.’

The real challenge is not to disappoint them. America’s future depends on it. And so, to a considerable extent, does Israel’s.

Obama’s electoral success was built on insistent light and optimism – on that empowering ‘Yes, we can!’ mantra.

Obama’s presidential success will depend on outmaneuvering, deterring and ultimately defeating those malicious global forces that peddle darkness and misery, and that are sneering to themselves right now: ‘No, you can’t.’

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT acknowledged in his speech ‘the enormity of the task that lies ahead.’ He cited the challenges posed by ‘two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.’

He chose not to specify the threat posed by Islamic extremism, and its most pernicious state sponsor, Iran. But his efforts to resolve those two wars to which he was referring – in Iraq and Afghanistan – and to effect a return to financial stability, will greatly depend on his wisdom in confronting that Islamist danger.

Blocking Iranian Islamist ambition, indeed, is central to the vow at the heart of his victory speech: ‘To those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you.’

The stirring sentiment will count for nothing if this confrontation is ducked. For only by thwarting the death-cult Islamists can the new leader of the free world liberate the moderates who seek reconciliation; it simply won’t work the other way around.

The defeated candidate, John McCain, would likely have been more ready to resort to military intervention to stop Iran’s nuclear program, its ticket to regional domination, but would likely, too, have struggled to win American, never mind international, support for such action.

President-elect Obama, by contrast, has offered direct diplomacy – to convey that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable – with all other options, including military force, available if the mullahs prove uncooperative. That approach brings the greater prospect of wider international consensus. But it also will take time. And time is precisely what Iran is delightedly manipulating.

The incoming president will have to make Iraq a priority, to honor his pledge for a speedy resolution of that conflict. But a successful strategy in Iraq also depends on quashing Iranian malevolence. The two must go hand-in-hand; Iran, its thousands of centrifuges spinning, cannot be temporarily put aside.

By repeatedly characterizing Israel as a fundamentally illegitimate nation whose demise must be expedited, Iran both genuinely threatens us and cunningly outflanks Arab objections to its nuclear drive. Weak Arab despots, undermined in country after country by the Islamist mindset they dare not vigorously confront, shy away from publicly and strenuously opposing Iran’s march toward greater regional dominance. In their skewed reality, if Iran is gunning for Israel, how can they object?

But they are only too aware that the mullahs’ threat is directed toward their regimes as well. Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf states – all are silently trembling. All are watching the confrontation between an emboldened Iran and an America that has appeared to be in retreat in this region. All are quietly praying that Obama can reverse that flux.

Meanwhile, Iran conveys immense amounts of materiel into a Gaza controlled by its partners in Hamas, where the past few months of deceptive tahadiyeh calm will almost inevitably, sooner or later, be shattered by violence more intense than that which preceded it.

And to the north, in Lebanon, Iran’s Hizbullah organization quadruples its pre-2006 missile arsenal, brings all of Israel into range, deepens its subterranean infrastructure and, above ground, gains ever-greater control of government.

These are the flexing tentacles of those ‘who would tear the world down.’ These are the forces who would bend ‘the arc of history’ to dash all ‘hope of a better day.’ These are the bleak fundamentalists whom a president Obama will have to wisely face down if he is to bring dependable support ‘to those who seek peace and security.’

THIS KIND of energized American presidency, critical to Israel’s well-being, will simultaneously pose real challenges for Israel.

President George Bush insisted, in the face of all common sense, that a substantive agreement could be reached by the end of 2008 between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He was misdirected, however, by none other than Olmert himself, who seems to have seen in Abbas a grit and determination to reform the unloved Fatah and steer the Palestinians toward viable compromise – a grit and determination that, sadly, Abbas has neither displayed nor perhaps even seen in himself.

President Obama would do well to eschew delusional expectations and unrealistic timetables. But he may urge Israel to set out, once and for all, its red territorial lines – to belatedly determine the parameters of a secure sovereign entity.

And plainly, he has his own starting point. As he told me in our interview during his Israel visit in July, ‘I think there are those who would argue that the more settlements there are, the more Israel has to invest in protecting those settlements and the more tensions arise that may undermine Israel’s long-term security… Israel may seek ’67-plus’ and justify it in terms of the buffer that they need for security purposes. They’ve got to consider whether getting that buffer is worth the antagonism of the other party.’

A president Obama seeking wisely to thwart Iran may well also thoroughly reorient American policy as regards Syria – with immediate implications for Israel. Whereas Bush was less than delighted, initially, by Olmert’s readiness to embrace President Bashar Assad’s calculated negotiating overtures, Obama could seek to encourage substantive progress. If Assad wants better relations with Washington, and Obama wants to woo Damascus away from Teheran, Israel may have to make some painful calculations about the Golan Heights.

WHAT ALL that requires from Israel, in turn, is wise, inspiring, unifying and consensus-building leadership.

And it is in that area that Barack Obama’s presidential election victory tentatively prompts another emotion here: envy.

Improbable candidate Obama galvanized tens of millions of Americans, and gave many of his countryfolk a sense of first-time enfranchisement, a near-euphoric sense of stake.

He told his people, late on that historic Tuesday, to ‘summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.’

In America, he declared, ‘we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.’

Watching and listening to that lofty rhetoric in our troubled region thousands of miles away, we must hope – for America’s sake and for our own – that Obama in deed is as good as his word. And hope, too, for leadership here that can first conceive, and then achieve, such vital resolve and ambition.

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