Most Israelis were asleep as the polls closed in America and voters waited for the results, but on one rooftop in central Tel Aviv a party with loud classic rock music and flashing lights was going strong.
It was the pro-Obama election-watching party of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party. Deviating from a solidly anti-Obama consensus in Israel – a poll showed Israeli Jews preferring Republican challenger Mitt Romney over the president, 59 percent to 22 percent – Meretz’s young members drank, talked and danced around a projection screen alternating between CNN and Israeli news coverage.
For members of Israel’s embattled left, the party was a chance to celebrate liberalism. Attendees wore bright green shirts reading “My heart is leftist” or sporting Obama paraphernalia from 2008. A cheer rose as an Israeli TV station presented a photo slideshow of the president’s life.
“We identify with the progressive values Obama represents,” said Tomer Reznik, 23, chairman of the Young Meretz group. “On one hand he supports Israel, and pushes Israel with the other hand.”
Hours later, past 3 a.m. local time, when the results began coming in from Florida and Ohio, two Israeli political diehards sat at the back of the popular American bar Mike’s Place alongside small groups of American tourists and expatriates.
“I saw the four debates,” said Asaf Chen, 27. “Romney hasn’t been president and he came with lots of promises. Obama had four years to do things and he didn’t exactly do it.”
After it became clear that Obama won the election, Israeli officialdom reacted quickly.
“The security relationship between the United States and Israel is rock solid, and I look forward to working with President Obama to further strengthen this relationship,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement of congratulations. “I look forward to working with him to advance our goals of peace and security.”
President Shimon Peres also offered his congratulations.