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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