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But Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a Netanyahu confidant, suggested that the sort of military mission often envisaged for Iran, centred on air power, would banish the ghosts of the Iraq quagmire.
“No one wants another war in the Middle East, but there is a huge difference between a major ground war with a commitment of troops that march into an Arab capital, and the spectrum of options that exist now. Some of them may involve just air assets or intelligence cooperation,” he said.
HEAVEN OR HELL
Whether or not there proves to be any substantive difference between the two presidential contenders in terms of core policy-making, there can be no doubt that the conservative Netanyahu would feel more comfortable dealing with the Republican Romney.
In his two terms as prime minister, Netanyahu has only ever dealt with Democratic presidents - first Bill Clinton and now Obama. He is often quoted as having said “I speak Republican” and his relations with Obama were at very best frosty.
“If Romney wins, (Netanyahu) will be in paradise. If it is Obama, it will be hell,” said one former aide, who worked alongside Netanyahu for a stretch of his second stint in office.
Whether by coincidence or design, the next U.S. president will be sworn in the day before an Israeli parliamentary election, with Netanyahu widely touted to win, meaning that the countries’ leaders will be in electoral lockstep.
Some Democrats have accused Netanyahu of interfering in the U.S. election by trying to coerce Obama into setting red lines for Iran. Palestinians hope that if he is re-elected he will get his own back by reviving the moribund peace process and put heavy pressure on Israel into making concessions over territory.
That is wishful thinking.
While Israel was mentioned 34 times in last week’s debate, the Palestinians won just one mention, underlining how far down the world agenda they have tumbled.
In a secretly recorded video at a fund-raising event in May, Romney said “the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable” and suggested his policy would be to “kick the ball down the field”.
After investing time and energy on the issue in his first term, and winning only animosity from both sides, Obama is unlikely to revisit the problem any time soon, said Aaron David Miller, a former senior U.S. adviser on the peace process.
“This whole notion that freed from political restraints the American president is going to go for some grandiose ambitious peace plan that will put him into conflict with the Israeli prime minister is the grandest of illusions,” he said.
Swept to the sidelines, the Palestinian leadership watched the foreign policy debate with a mix of gloom and anger.
“What we didn’t see in the debate was any sign of who has the backbone and foresight to bring about a just peace, and that’s what was needed,” said Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.