Will GOP-Controlled Congress Benefit Israel?

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Republican wins in the U.S. Congress could mean more friends for Israel on Capitol Hill. Many Israelis are hoping for less pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish state.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Israel was indifferent to the election results, because there is strong support for the Jewish state from both parties in Congress.

"I don't believe that the election results will have any effect on foreign policy," Ayalon said. "I believe that the American, just as also the Israeli vital interests, will continue to be the same."

Some liberal Israeli politicians think the Republican win could be bad for Israel, because it would weaken President Barack Obama and his ability to push the peace process. However, conservative experts said they hope Republicans will make Washington, D.C. more supportive of Israel and its right wing government.

"I believe we should be very optimistic after we saw the results of the midterm elections, because today we have more supporters in Congress and in the Senate," said Israeli Knesset member Danny Danon.

"We are better off today as far as U.S.-Israel relations than we were a day before the elections," said Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, former liaison to Congress.

Ettinger said it's all about their world view and Republicans tend toward tradition, religion and national security.

"Certainly a Republican majority is much better equipped world view-wise to deal with the mutual threats of terrorism, ballistic missiles, Iran than was the Democratic majority until this election," he added.

U.S.-Israel relations have been strained during the last two years over the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian talks and Obama's pressure on Netanyahu to freeze building in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria - the West Bank.

"Certainly a U.S. pressuring Israel fuels rather than moderates the Palestinian attitude towards Israel," Ettinger said. "Hopefully this Congress will discourage the American president to further fuel Palestinian hostility towards Israel."

Danon told CBN News Iran is still the most pressing issue in the Middle East.

"It is not about the settlements, it is not about Jerusalem," he said. "It's about focusing on Iran."

"Hopefully this Congress would influence American policy towards more realistic policy towards Iran, which means pre-emption rather than retaliation and prevention rather than engagement," Ettinger said.

Just how much of an impact the new Congress will have on Obama's foreign policy remains to be seen. Still, many Israelis are hoping for a shift in their favor.

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Julie Stahl

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