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Thursday
Nov152012

FOUR MORE YEARS! S-O-S!

An analysis of the recent elections in the United States from the vantage point of American citizens in general, and Chabad chassidim in particular, who live in Eretz Yisroel.

I guess it’s just my nature. As someone who received degrees in political science and public administration and who worked on Capitol Hill in the early Mems (eighties) before I was won over by the Lubavitcher chassidim in Baltimore and College Park, Maryland, the workings of the American political system has always been a fixation of mine, especially come election time. Therefore, with the permission of the editors of Beis Moshiach, I thought I’d give my own perspective on last week’s exercise in American democracy:

MORE OF THE SAME – PILED HIGHER AND DEEPER

The longest and most expensive campaign in the history of politics has finally come to an end. And what do we have to show for it after all the complaints over the past two years of gridlock and intransigence among our representatives in Washington, D.C.? A confirmation of the status quo – same president, same Congress, and little room for compromise.

While I was hoping and expecting a slightly different outcome, the results did not come as a complete surprise. Seven months ago, when Mitt Romney was in the process of sewing up the Republican presidential nomination, I said openly that primary voters had chosen the easiest candidate for President Obama to defeat. His moderate views on abortion and homosexuality did not endear him to the party’s conservative wing. But more than that, the Obama campaign had a field day categorizing him as a wealthy businessman with a net worth of a quarter of a billion dollars – someone who could not possibly relate to people who struggle each day to make a living.

Nevertheless, after his big win in the first domestic policy debate against Obama, Romney’s electoral prospects increased substantially, to the point that victory seemed well within his reach. However, his failure in the foreign policy debate to take the president to task for what happened in Benghazi, Libya, when the U.S. ambassador and three others were murdered in cold blood, may have been a costly mistake. The liberal press was more than happy to leave the whole subject alone, ignoring the fact that the State Department had disregarded requests from the embassy for greater security measures.

Then there was Hurricane Sandy. In all honesty, even I was surprised to see how much Obama’s public handling of the crisis influenced undecided voters during the campaign’s final week. Effusive praise from the Republican governor of New Jersey, a big Romney supporter who delivered the keynote address at last summer’s Republican National Convention, made it all the easier for them to support Mr. Obama. In the nine so-called “battleground” states, the President won all but one of them – and that was the whole ballgame.

There will be much discussion in the weeks and months to come about how the Republican Party squandered a chance to recapture the presidency that was within their grasp because it appears to have lost touch with the nation’s young people, women, and minorities, and that may be true. However, in the final analysis, a majority of voters went to the polls last Tuesday and cast their ballots with their hearts, not their minds. A sizable cross-section of the American public preferred to hear their chief executive say how he understands their hardships, promising them the unrestrained continuation of all the benefits of socialized medicine. They didn’t want someone like Romney confusing them with the facts that Americans have to be more self-reliant and independent. You can’t tell these people that America is sixteen trillion dollars in debt and we just can’t afford such things right now. They want to get as much as they can for as little as possible. And that’s exactly what the president of the United States was prepared to offer them in exchange for giving him a second term.

ORDER OF PRIORITIES FOR AMERICANS LIVING IN ERETZ YISROEL

But I digress. While my interest in U.S. political affairs has persisted, my perspective has changed considerably since I came to live in Eretz Yisroel twenty-six years ago. In fact, I have now lived here longer than I did in America, and as a result, I perceive things from an entirely different vantage point. We can see this clearly by how our fellow Jews cast their ballots. In the last three presidential elections, more than seventy percent of American-based Jews voted for the Democratic nominee, whereas Americans living in Eretz Yisroel voted by an even wider margin (85% this time) for the Republican candidate. If that’s not a huge ideological gap, I don’t know what is…

To pursue this point further, living in Eretz Yisroel helps straighten out your priorities. Granted, America’s budget crisis is quite important and people have a right to know what a presidential candidate intends to do about it. However, I’ve never been a fiscal conservative, and that alone wouldn’t get Romney my vote. Besides, there are things far more important, starting with the quality of life and the moral values we want for our society. In this respect, I consider a candidate’s positions on social issues such as the sanctity of marriage and the right to life for the unborn to carry far greater weight than economic issues.

But above all, the vast majority of American citizens privileged to dwell in the Holy Land are concerned first and foremost with the preservation of the People and the Land of Israel. While it’s quite true that the economy was by far the most important issue in this campaign, and Mr. Obama’s renewed mandate had far less to do with his record on foreign policy and social issues (or the lack thereof), we must address this matter as we move forward in our activities on behalf of Shleimus Ha’Am, Shleimus HaTorah, and Shleimus Ha’Aretz.

Like it or not, Barack Obama is the president of the United States, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will remain in this post for another four years and two months by the will of the electorate. This is exacerbated by the fact that his Israeli counterpart, Mr. Netanyahu, will also be facing the electorate in another two months, and if all indications prove to be accurate, he will receive a third mandate from the voters, thereby keeping him in the prime minister’s office for the duration of Obama’s occupancy of the Oval Office.

DON’T RELY ON UNCLE SAM NOW TO PROTECT OUR VITAL INTERESTS

Thus, we have a situation where we have a president in Washington with a renewed lease on the White House who wants Israel to withdraw to the borders prior to the Six Day War and a prime minister in Yerushalayim who is determined to find the way to give the ‘Palestinians’ their own independent state.

The results of last week’s presidential election have made it abundantly clear that Americans living in Eretz Yisroel should not expect much support from the Executive Branch of the United States Government in the immediate future on the issues of primary importance to them. Over the past four years, the president has shown where his sympathies lie in connection with the Middle East and the pursuit of stability in the region. He has visited virtually every Arab country while he callously avoided paying a call on America’s staunchest ally, choosing instead to give aid and comfort to his Moslem brethren.

The condescending tones emanating from the Obama White House, not to mention a few diplomatic snubs, have made the icy relationship between the George H.W. Bush Administration and the government of Mr. Yitzchak Shamir seem tame in comparison. Only Jimmy Carter, a classic apologist for Arab terrorism known for his disparaging remarks against Israelis and using anti-Semitic stereotypes (“voices from Jerusalem dominate our media, and most American citizens are unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories”), has been worse. However, unlike Mr. Obama, his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mr. Carter, thank G-d, was denied a second term in office.

The vice president, Mr. Biden, has proven to be no more compassionate. While he had been quoted four years ago, during his abortive presidential campaign, stating that there was a rationale for granting clemency to Jonathan Pollard, he whistled a totally different tune last year: “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.’ If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.” And so it goes.

NOW FOR THE REALLY IMPORTANT ELECTIONS

Most Americans living in Eretz Yisroel have deep pride of their native country and their status as citizens of the United States of America, and rightly so. We all hope and pray for the day when Israeli currency will proudly bear the words “Yisroel Betach BaShem,” the Hebrew equivalent of “In G-d We Trust.” However, we also have a responsibility here in Eretz Yisroel. To paraphrase the old saying, “Now is the time for all good Jews to come to the aid of their homeland.”

The recent election in the United States was most important, but nowhere nearly as important as the one about to take place in Eretz Yisroel. As Chabad chassidim with the right to vote in Israeli parliamentary elections, we will be responding to the call of the Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, regarding “the holy obligation and privilege of each and every chareidi and those who fear the word of G-d to participate personally in the elections and to influence others to vote for the most chareidi list, so that not one vote goes to waste.” (Igros Kodesh, Vol. 4, Letter #1064, pg. 345)

By Divine Providence, the election will not only take place on the day after President Obama stands on the steps of the United States Capitol to deliver his second inaugural address, it is also scheduled for Yud-Alef (“Yechi Adoneinu”), the 11th of Shvat, commemorating the first full day of the Rebbe MH”M’s leadership. This will be the day when the citizens of Eretz Yisroel will elect the leaders they wish to represent them during Mr. Obama’s next term. It is vitally important that the next government of Israel be a strong one that can properly serve the cause of “the Land of Israel for the People of Israel according to the Torah of Israel.”

Naturally, the question of which party running for the Knesset best represents “the most chareidi list [of candidates]” is subject to legitimate debate. Some will choose an ultra-Orthodox party such as Yahadut HaTorah (United Torah Judaism), while others will opt for a right-wing party such as Ichud HaLeumi (National Union). The best option would be for all religious and right-wing parties to join forces as a united bloc on one list, as the Rebbe requested on numerous occasions. This will maximize their electoral strength while maintaining their status as independent parliamentary factions, and ensure “that not one vote goes to waste,” if they should splinter off into separate lists.

Above all, we must do our utmost as loyal Chassidim to fulfill the Rebbe’s wishes in the preservation of Eretz Yisroel according to the laws stated in Shulchan Aruch. With G-d’s help, and in the merit of our efforts, we will hasten the day when, as the Rebbe said, “I hope that very soon the prime minister there will be Moshiach Tzidkeinu.”

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