Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Back in the Middle East but still kind of in the US

I survived my 3 week trip to the States, including numerous forays to the frightening Aventura Mall in South Florida. Despite missing my friends and family, it's good to be safe and sound and back in the Middle East.

Back in Jerusalem, all people are talking about is politics. We are witnessing a reshuffling of the Kadima party and the remaking of the Israeli government. There's a municipal election in Jerusalem November 11. But it seems like the enormity of this year's US presidential election this November 4 is overshadowing it all.

We've prepared an election special for CNN World Report that will air a few days leading up the election. I will keep you posted on that, but for now you can see a small sample of our interviews in minute 16:52 of an election special now airing on Current TV. (Viewable below)

Walking the streets of downtown Jerusalem and asking people their opinions, I was surprised to see how many Israelis are now leaning towards the Democrats. While the Palestinians and Arab Israelis I spoke to almost unanimously support Obama, Israeli Jews seem to be split 50/50. In past election I assume that most Israeli Jews supported the Republicans, but I get a sense this support is waning this time around.

The older Israelis who support Obama claim that the economic crisis is Bush's fault and that there needs to be a major change in Washington to fix the broken economy. The younger Israelis I spoke to point towards the War in Iraq as their major reason for supporting Obama. They unanimously view America as much weaker as a result of 8 years of the shadowy "Bush Doctrine" and think that a weak America is generally bad for Israel.

The McCain supporters claim to be scared of the "real Obama." They allude to his relative inexperience and supposed ties to Louis Farrakhan and Reverend Wright as their major reasons they wouldn't vote for him. They see the Iraq War as improving and think it will take a war hero with character, someone like John McCain, to finish the job in Iraq. I was surprised to hear from a handful of people that Obama was a "closet Muslim."

Many were undecided. One college age girl I spoke to sees Obama as more democratic, but not as likely to support Israel. Her dilemma is between her perceived importance of democratic values versus her love for the Jewish state. She therefore didn't know who to vote for. So I told her to imagine that she suddenly became an honorary American voter in a national majority voting system (no electoral college). There was a tie and her vote was the tiebreaker. She smirked uncomfortably and said that she would vote for McCain, disclaiming "I care more about Israel than democracy."

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