Exile and the prophetic: Two more years

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Since the campaign is over and President Obama has been reelected, I have a new post-election slogan to share: ‘Welcome to the next two years.’

I don’t want to mute the celebration.  I knew Obama won when Pennsylvania was called for him early in the evening.  Every other swing state was close.  Obama needed a few.  Romney needed too many.

Nonetheless, it’s two rather than four years we’re talking about.  Or even less.  That’s how long President Obama’s election victory lasts – at least in terms of getting things of significance done.

Why two years or less?  The next House and Senate election cycle begins today.  The next Presidential election cycle begins in a few months.

The two-year time limit affects any big initiative the President might have.  This includes the broader Middle East and more specifically Israel/Palestine.

On the House and Senate side, pressure will build soon on the President both within his party and by the Republicans, for the next election cycle.  Alienating the base is against an individual candidate’s self-interest.  It’s also against party interests. 

On the President’s side, anything that weakens individual candidates or party interests accelerates his lame duck status.  The only way for President Obama to stay relevant is to be relevant to the electoral success of others.  If he washes their hands, they’ll wash his.

Every President’s second term is politically limited.  Instead of leading, he is led.  Considering that Obama was rightly criticized during his first term for his inability to lead on major issues, it doesn’t bode well for his second term.  Of course, there were major successes – health care and gays in the military come to mind.  As well, the winding down of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan shouldn’t be forgotten either.

On the Middle East – well we know where the Arab Spring left off.  Likewise, we know nothing of significance has occurred in Israel/Palestine.  Or, stated another way, the positive significance for Israel of nothing happening is clear.  Israel has had four more years of stalemate on the Palestinian issue.  This means victory, at least, for the Israeli government that seeks a one-state reality with millions of Palestinians on the sidelines.

Then there’s Iran – the not so subtle replacement for September 11th and its subsequent replacement, Iraq, and its ensuing replacement, Afghanistan.  You get the picture.  Iran is another two year time-frame for sure, whatever they agree to or, if they don’t agree, whether they’re sanctioned into destitution or bombed into oblivion.

Gifts from heaven keep dropping into Israel’s lap.  September 11th and its aftermath have already yielded Israel more than a decade of green lights.  Israel needs one more decade to put the icing on the cake.  If I was a betting man, I bet Israel finds another decade-long gift.

Now, if we were to deepen the bet, getting more specific, will it be Iran, Syria or Egypt that provides the gift wrapping? 

Egypt would be the most ironic.  Could a more democratic Egypt that stands tall against Israel be Israel’s next gift?  Of course, it can, if you look beyond the rhetoric.  Egypt can speak its piece, feel good about it and also remain in the American corner for its own self-interest.  Jordan has done this for years.  A new Syrian government will do this, too. 

Palestinians will have to play in the corner they’ve been apportioned by their Arab allies who partner with the United States.  With friends like these, Palestinians can’t afford enemies.

Obama’s victory is a God-send around the edges of American domestic and foreign policy.  The major stuff is more difficult, if not impossible.  Obviously, Israel/Palestine and the Middle East falls into the major basket with significant domestic constituencies that the President and the Democrats can’t risk alienating.  But, then again, Mitt Romney and the Republicans weren’t going to ruffle any of their feathers either. 

One election done,the next election cycle is about to crank up.

The next two years are already being mapped out.  I doubt it includes a revised map of Israel/Palestine.


About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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6 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    November 7, 2012, 10:41 am

    Two more years to affect I/P?

    Well, it depends on whether Obama continues (as I expect) to desire to be an effective legislative leader (in which case he is certainly a prisoner of all the BIGs who will give electoral money for Congressional elections in two years: BIG-ZION (AIPAC), BIG-OIL and BIG-COAL and BIG-GAS (global warming, fracking, in short ever-increasing “hell and high water”), BIG-BANKS, etc.

    The alternative is for Obama to “speak truth to power” by telling America what the real problems are which face America implacably: climate, money in politics, Israeli imperialism, America’s imperialism and endless and unnecessary war, America’s self-chosen roles as policeman of the world without request or permission or financial contribution from the beneficiaries ?? of this policing.

    This alternative requires abandoning traditional political leadership and would require a sea-change in presidential behavior. The nation and the world need it badly, but it cannot be expected of a man who is part of politics-as-usual.

    Imagine if Obama went on TV tomorrow night and said: “I am changing American policy with regard to Israel and Palestine. Starting now, the USA returns to the view that enforcement of international law is the best and most reliable path toward peace and justice in the Israel / Palestine conflict. This means that the USA now asserts, as it once did but has not done for years, that Israel’s settlements and settlers and wall are present in occupied territories illegally and must be removed. It means even more than that, but that is enough to say for now. I am asking all Americans to join me in working hard to find a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians based on the rule of law. This will seem a hard and unwelcome change for Israel and its friends here in the USA, but it is not aimed at endangering Israel within its pre-1967 borders. It is aimed at bring peace, justice, and human rights to the too long-suffering Palestinian people. I will have more to say on this topic in coming days.”

    Well, I can only imagine.

    • AM
      November 7, 2012, 1:34 pm

      I would think the response would be “…How the hell is this going to help our economy?”

      I think because people’s focus is on the economy, it gives him some leverage to pursue a more navigable foreign policy in the background, especially since he quietly knows that many of the ‘ground forces’ that constitute the diplomats, generals, intelligence officers, etc. have never been fond of Israel.

  2. Keith
    November 7, 2012, 11:27 am

    MARC ELLIS- “Obama’s victory is a God-send around the edges of American domestic and foreign policy.”

    I take it that you are a ‘liberal’ in the pejorative sense of the term? Obama’s first four years were a disaster for the economy, peace and justice, constitutional rights and the environment. His next four years will be much worse. A fearful electorate has voted their loyalty to the divine right of capital. Let the neoliberal onslaught begin!

  3. LeaNder
    November 7, 2012, 5:48 pm

    Gifts from heaven keep dropping into Israel’s lap. September 11th and its aftermath have already yielded Israel more than a decade of green lights. Israel needs one more decade to put the icing on the cake. If I was a betting man, I bet Israel finds another decade-long gift.

    Strictly, I like the melancholic tone of this item in the series a lot. And I can very, very much understand your question marks about the larger state of US (Western, our democracies?).

    This is the only passage, were I feel a slight resistance. Maybe since I am also drawn to the basic MW message of hope, never mind how hesitant and skeptic, but I think that 911 was only a gift for Israel looked at from the surface. For the very important reason that it’s misuse for business as usual made a far larger amount of people take a closer look than had ever been the case before. Now attention was centered on the ME. Usually the vast Western majority simply moved on after another Israeli force and destruction endeavor.

    I don’t think it was wise from a PR perspective that Israel added their own little war on Lebanon to the larger War on Terrorism, with Gaza it definitively went too far. The larger context created much too much world attention after everyone, who cared to know or understand, realized that Israelis were almost the only population on earth that supported the Machiavellian game of the Iraq war to an impressively high degree.

    • dbroncos
      November 8, 2012, 12:05 am

      I agree with Mr. Ellis when he says that 9-11 was a gift to Israel. Wasn’t it Sharon who said the same thing? However I also agree with LeaNder’s point:

      ” 911 was only a gift for Israel looked at from the surface. For the very important reason that it’s misuse for business as usual made a far larger amount of people take a closer look than had ever been the case before.”

      The amont of face time the Israeli PM and Israel’s supporters are given in the news -mugging with the Sec. of State, the President, Congressional reps, pundits, etc… is astonishing. Why does Israel and Israel’s PM require so much attention – more attention than the President seems to give any one of the states – especially when the US has much bigger problems to deal with than placating the Israeli PM and giving him assurances about a war on Iran that a majority of Americans don’t want? Many Americans don’t get it and the ones who make a point of trying to better understand the “special relationship” don’t like what they see.

      • Citizen
        November 10, 2012, 7:40 am

        Further, maybe Sheldon Adelson will become a household name, an icon among megadonors, sort of like Bernie Madoff did for his contribution to how sick our system is?

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