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Even without a high-stakes Obama-Netanyahu summit, Israel has what might be called an unusual fixation with American politics.
JERUSALEM — Most Israeli radio journalists could barely pronounce the word "Iowa" when the Republican presidential primary season took off months ago.
By now, those same morning news broadcasters are fluent even with tricky state names Idaho, Ohio and Wyoming. But their newly acquired skills were not enough to ease the confusion of this morning’s Super Tuesday reports.
Israel has what might be called an unusual fixation with American politics. Add a high-stakes Obama-Netanyahu summit to the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, and mix it with puzzling a Super Tuesday outcome — and what you had was a passel of tongue-tied Israeli pundits.
So, has Romney won? asked Israel radio news host Yael Dan. “Well, he will, but we are in for a long haul,” responded former Israeli ambassador to US, Itamar Rubinstein, drawing out the world “long.”
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Kory Bardash, 46, a native of New Jersey and co-chair of Republicans Abroad (Israel) responded to the equivocal results with a deep sigh. “The process continues,” he said. “Romney clearly won the most delegates but he is somewhat hurt politically because of the nature of his victories. This was not a knockout.”
“I think he was hoping to look at Super Tuesday as the moment he’d become the presumptive nominee, but the process continues, and as long as it continues, it hurts the Republican brand,” he added.
Bardash, an investment advisor, is not a lifelong Republican. He grew up in a Democratic household and has even voted for a few Democrats. “When you live abroad you tend to focus the economy, on foreign policy, and not the local social issues. I think this is what is strongest for Republicans living in Israel.”
Possibly so, but an intriguing poll released last week by the Brookings Institution showed that all Israelis, Jews and non-Jews, would vote for Obama ahead of each of the four remaining Republican candidates, if they could. Across the board, less than 10 percent of respondents felt they had too little information to respond.
Bardash said: “I continue to believe strongly that based on Obama’s record and the state of the economy, historically there is no way that he should be able to win. However, the Republicans could certainly lose.
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“Obama’s worldview is very much leading from behind … When it comes to Israel and his views of the Middle East, he thinks that if you fix the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and then everything else will fall into place. But the Arab Spring and Iran, which have had nothing to do with conflict, show that that’s just not true. He should not have insisted on the settlement issue.”
Perhaps due to the drawn-out primary process, or reflective of the reality presented in the Brookings poll, or possibly in reaction to the iron-clad assurances President Obama made at the AIPAC conference, Israelis on the street seemed less attuned to Super Tuesday results than they have been in the past.
Two waiters at a central Jerusalem cafe, Leah, a cosmetology student, and Matan, an arts student, confessed to having ignored the matter altogether. Instead, Israeli streets today are teeming with kids dressed up in fancy costumes, celebrating the festival of Purim, in which the Jews won a cunning battle against the Persian King and a plot enacted against them by the evil Haman. It is a light-hearted, jovial day, perfect for putting problems aside.
Not knowing what to do with Super Tuesday, many Israeli outlets instead turned to another tidbit coming out of the United States. The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, met with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and together they inaugurated the octogenarian head of state’s Facebook page, on which Peres asks you to “be his friend for peace.”
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