As voters went to the polls for midterm elections on Tuesday, supporters of Israel already were speculating on if, and how, the results would impact the U.S.-Israel relationship. Conventional wisdom has it that a Republican Congress would be more supportive of the policies of the Netanyahu government in Israel, which is in an openly rocky relationship with the Obama White House. Democrats point out that the level of military and strategic cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem has never been higher than today, despite the dysfunctional status of the two top leaders.
What is most worrisome to Israeli officials, though, is the possibility that across-the-board, bilateral support for Israel in Washington is weakening. Over the decades both Democrats and Republicans have been strong advocates for Israel, not only because of their good feelings about the only true democracy in the Mideast but also because Israel was a vital strategic ally of the U.S. in an important and dangerous region. Today some say that President Obama’s aggressive attitude in pressuring Netanyahu for concessions on the Palestinian front sends a signal to fellow Democrats that it is permissible to be out of step with Israel. Others, perhaps more pragmatic (or cynical), note that the Democratic Party will not waver too much in support of Israel for fear that otherwise it may lose major donations from prominent members of the Jewish community.
In the short term, this week’s election may have an impact on how the administration deals with its effort to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. The deadline is Nov. 24, and the president has indicated he may bypass a congressional vote if an agreement is reached. He knows that many legislators are wary of a deal that allows Iran to be on the threshold of achieving nuclear arms. But that may hold true whichever party controls the Congress several weeks from now.