Advertisement

What does Obama's re-election mean for relations with Israel?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu all but publically endorsed Mitt Romney ahead of the election. Photo: Reuters

Just as the US networks called the election for Barack Obama, the rising sun broke through dawn-grey clouds to shine on a beautiful Tel Aviv morning.

But the scene was probably lost on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - who broke all precedent to all-but publically endorse Mitt Romney.

It was a gamble and there are penalties to ending on the losing side; particularly for Netanyahu and his belief - shared by most Israelis - that a Republican White House would have looked more favourably on Israeli air-strikes on Tehran's nuclear research facilities.

Now he's stuck with a Democrat with whom he has - at best - frosty relations. At times, poisonous. It doesn't mean Israel won't launch such an attack next year if its famous redlines are crossed - but it makes the operation much harder, militarily, politically, diplomatically.

Second; Obama is almost certainly going to search for a fresh peace plan between Israel and Palestine. He's a second term President with an eye on his place in history who believes the problems of the Middle East can't be solved without an end to this central conflict.

Barack Obama has secured a second term. Credit: Reuters

George Bush tried it in 2004, Bill Clinton in 1996. Both failed. So here's the warning to Obama. Almost everything depends on how much personal political capital he's prepared to expend. But he has to be careful of over-reaching and under-delivering.

Finally and perhaps most importantly. None of this can be disentangled from Israel's own elections in January. Until now, Netanyahu has been billed as the sure fire winner. But now there's ammunition for his divided opponents. If they can exploit the gap between Netanyahu and Obama, there are votes to be won.

If Israelis fret most about Iran, second on their worry-list is the fractured relationship with a US which is guarantees their security. Netanyahu will congratulate Obama, sympathise with his old friend Romney, and feel the chill of his defeat too, despite that sunrise.

More on this story