By Shimon Z. Klein

In the Middle East, most of the people are following the presidential elections with great interest. They view the elections from the point of view as to which candidate serves their interests better. Will it be the Republican candidate, John McCain or the Democrat’s Barrack Obama? My gut feeling is that most Israelis would like to see John McCain elected the new president of the United States. Many believe that he is more pro-Israel than Obama. Both candidates have made many pro-Israel statements in the hope of capturing the Jewish vote. Perhaps the edge on pro-Israelism lies in McCain. Much remains to be seen as to the tactics used and the speeches that will be made by the two presidential candidates in order to capture the Jewish vote. 

Possibly in the short run, from Israel’s point of view, McCain’s election as president would serve its interests, judging his statements on the Middle East. In the end, we must remember that he will be representing conservative Bush policy continuity. Bush’s record in the Middle East is poor. He has blundered in Iraq, Afghanistan and he has brought US prestige to a low. Iraq is in a total mess. There is no control and the country is in the process of self-destruction, with suicide bombings an everyday occurrence. The US armed forces will remain in Iraq for a long time if McCain and his Bush legacy wins the presidential elections. The Iraqi people are subjected to the cruelest violence between Sunni and Shiite Moslems which shows no signs of abating. Bush has created the US’s “second Vietnam” and the hell that goes with it. The US dollar has weakened against most world currencies and the US economy is in the doldrums. The Bush legacy has nothing to offer anywhere at any place at any time. The US is in great need of change before it can regain its prestige and act as an honest broker in peace-making in the Middle East. McCain is not the man who can take on that role.  

The new US president will have to renew US efforts in being an honest broker once again. Bush never fulfilled that role and only showed interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict towards the end of his presidency with his hype-filled Annapolis Conference that has been forgotten like a momentary blip of news on the TV screen. Lately Israel’s legally beleaguered PM Ehud Olmert and George Bush, whose popularity ratings are at the lowest ebb possible, have become strange bedfellows in the twilight of their political careers. One must bear in mind that McCain, being a Republican, will somehow continue the Bush legacy which will not achieve peace in the Middle East. He will cause the US to sink further into the quagmire. Barack Obama’s record is clean as far as the Arab states and Palestinians are concerned. Apart from his speech at the influential AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) which did upset Arab nations, he still has support from the Arab nations. Hopefully, he will be more successful in negotiations than his predecessor Bush assuming that he is elected to the presidency. His sense of balance in this conflict can only be to the advantage of all parties to the conflict when it comes to getting the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians back on track.  

It is incumbent on the American people to make a change. They have an opportunity to elect a president who could cease US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and return it to its former status of being a world power. This can influence the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians positively.  

The chances of the US withdrawing its armed forces from Iraq are greater under an Obama than under a McCain presidency. Obama is an impressive and charismatic politician. He shows promise that could ring in changes that the US needs so desperately. The old Republican order will ensure the same Bush legacy which would be bad for US interests and the interests of peace in the Middle East. 

Obama has promised the electorate that he will make withdrawal of US troops from Iraq a top priority as well as a renewal of peace negotiations between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours. We have not heard this commitment so strongly from McCane. A new vision that will be acceptable to both Israel and its Arab neighbours including the Palestinians is overdue. If Obama wins the election, there is a greater chance of achieving peace on these tracks than ever before. This is conditional, of course, on whether Obama is prepared to become more involved than his predecessor who left it far too late. The Palestinians see Obama more receptive to their suffering than Bush, despite his declared support for Israel and this is an advantage.  

It is still a long haul before the Presidential elections. Observers here who show a great interest in the Middle East situation will be assessing every statement that is made by the two presidential candidates concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There have been so many attempts at peace making over the years and the results have been poor. 

It remains to be seen how the candidates will get the process on track especially now with Hamas being a major player. There are no signs coming from the Hamas camp of any form of rapprochement with Israel or any change in their anti-US attitudes. Their rhetoric remains uncompromising and this does not bode well for the future of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. If Hamas gains the upper hand in the West Bank then there will be a very big problem for the future of peace between Israel and the Palestinians no matter who wins the presidential elections in the US.  

If Hamas gains strength over Fatah in the West Bank and does not change its attitude it will result in Iran increasing its influence in the area and could result in a nuclear arms race. Hamas is a very dangerous obstacle towards peace and it is unlikely that they will succeed in unifying the Palestinian people. They will heap destruction and havoc on the Palestinian people which will encourage Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinajad to become involved in arming Hamas. He will use the Palestinians in order to spread his influence and try to rule the Middle East. It is hoped that the moderating influences in the Palestinian camp would unite in order to prevent this development. A nuclear arms race is a great threat to all peoples of the Middle East and not only to Israel. Nuclear fallout kills everybody! Hopefully this realization would unite all peoples of the Middle East to resist Iran which is a potential enemy to all peace loving peoples of the Middle East. Obama, with his clean slate from the Arab point of view, has the potential of applying pressure on Hamas and preventing Iran’s meddling in Palestinian affairs if he plays his cards right assuming that he wins the presidential elections.         

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