A theme of this campaign has been which approach is better for Israel.
Republicans have attempted to make the case that President Obama has undercut Israel, citing his tensions with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Mitt Romney says he will not allow daylight between the two states.
Now comes Efraim Halevy, the former Mossad chief and he disagrees — but not through a defense of Obama per se (although he has done this elsewhere.)
Instead, he has a thesis in the New York Times tonight that Republican presidents are likelier to resort to cold calculus and cut off Israel when they perceive it as being in the American interest:
Indeed, whenever the United States has put serious, sustained pressure on Israel’s leaders — from the 1950s on — it has come from Republican presidents, not Democratic ones. This was particularly true under Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.
He cites two examples from the last Republican president, George W. Bush — the imposition of the "Road Map" on Israel and forcing Israel to agree to Hamas participation in elections.
But he stretches right back to Ike Eisenhower, and how he forced David Ben Gurion to pull back from the Sinai in 1956.
Halevy doesn’t bother to explain why Republican presidents are more prone to heavy Israel than Democrats. (He doesn’t have to — as a spy, his job was to identify patterns, not necessarily to explain them.)
But if it is true — and I’m not sure it is, I know Truman, for instance, pressured Ben Gurion to accept a return of some Palestinian refugees — it raises two interesting questions: Is it fair to pin this on the party’s gestalt? It’s been 60 years since Eisenhower’s election; how much in common does he have with Mitt Romney, or George W. Bush for that matter?
And if it is fair, what is there in the Republican make-up that makes it likelier for a GOP president to pressure an Israeli leader?
Follow-up: Are Republican presidents similarly likely to play hardball with other countries’ leaders? And does that work to Israel’s advantage?