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Monday, August 31, 2009

Will the 'Japanese Obama' put pressure on Israel?

Haaretz reports that Yukio Hatoyama and Japan's Democratic party won Sunday's election in Japan. Hatoyama, who called himself the 'Japanese Obama' has already promised to end Japanese support for the United States in Afghanistan, a position that may place it at odds with the US.
Ending Japanese support for Western military operations in Afghanistan could cause tension with the United States and reduce American support for Japan in its confrontation with North Korea. It could also hurt U.S.-bound exports, which are essential for the Japanese economy's recovery. Toyota recently reported a 20 percent drop in worldwide car sales, while Mitsubishi's car sales were down 45 percent.
Unfortunately, Hatoyama's policies on Israel may be right in line with Obama's.
Withdrawing from American guardianship could also change Japanese policy toward Israel. Until now, Japan limited its support for the Palestinians to aiding economic projects, in keeping with American requests. The Hatoyama government is likely to take a more pro-Arab stance, such as by recognizing Hamas and making tougher demands of Israel, such as calling for an end to construction in the settlements. Such a position would be similar to the line taken by some European governments, and will not necessarily lead to a confrontation with the United States. The Obama administration may actually be pleased.

This January, the Israeli ambassador in Tokyo, Nissim Ben-Shitrit, participated in a Democratic Party convention. At the end of the convention, he met with Hatoyama. The party's Web site stated that Hatoyama expressed his deep concern over the Palestinian victims of Israel's Cast Lead operation in the Gaza Strip, and added that he hoped Israel would change its policies toward the Arab world, like American foreign policy had changed with the election of Barack Obama.

Hatoyama called himself the Japanese Obama in his election campaign, and said he would bring hoped-for change. When it comes to Israel, Obama and Hatoyama may coordinate efforts in ways Israel hasn't expected.
Israel cannot be distracted by smaller powers. At this point, the time has come for Israelis (since our government can do nothing of the sort) to work to ensure that the 2010 elections are a resounding defeat for the Obama administration. So far, it's looking good.


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