EVERYBODY IN Israel knows this story. When Levy Eshkol was Prime Minister, his assistants rushed up to him in panic: "Levy, there is a drought!"
"In Texas?" Eshkol asked anxiously.
"No, in Israel!" they said.
"Then it doesn't matter," Eshkol assured them. "We can always get all the wheat we need from the Americans."
That was some 50 years ago. Since than, nothing much has changed. The elections in the US in 11 days are more important to us than our own elections in three months.
I HAD to stay awake till 3 am again to watch the final presidential debate live. I was afraid that I would doze off, but I did not. On the contrary.
When two chess players are engaged in a game, there is often a person -- we call him a "kibitzer" -- standing behind one of them, trying to give him unsolicited advice. During the debates, I do the same. In my imagination, I stand behind Barack Obama and think about the right answer to Romney, before Obama himself opens his mouth.
I must admit that on some occasions during this debate, his answers were much better than mine. For example, I did not think up a stinging reply to Romney's contention that the US now has less warships then it had a hundred years ago. Obama's dry reply -- that the US army now has fewer horses, too -- was sheer genius. The more so since he could not have prepared it. Who could have foreseen such a dumb remark?
Also, when Romney slammed Obama for skipping Israel on his first Middle East tour as president. How to counter such a factual challenge -- especially with thousands of Jewish pensioners in Florida listening to every word?
Obama hit the right note. Remarking that Romney had visited with an entourage of donors and fund-raisers (without naming Sheldon Adelson and the other Jewish donors), he reminded us that as a candidate he went instead to Yad Vashem, to see for himself the evil done to the Jews. Touche.
On a few occasions, I thought I had a better answer. For example, when Romney tried to explain away his comment that Russia was the most important "geo-political foe" of the US, I would have reacted with "Excuse my ignorance, governor, but what does 'geo-political' mean?" In his context, it was a highfalutin but meaningless phrase.
("Geo-politics" is not just a juxtaposition of geography and politics. It is a world-view propagated by the German professor Hans Haushofer and others and adopted by Adolf Hitler as a rationale for his plan to create Lebensraum for Germans by annihilating or driving out the population of Eastern Europe.)
I would have talked much more about the wars, Nixon's Vietnam, the two Bushes' Iraq, the second Bush's Afghanistan. I noticed that Obama did not mention that he had been against the Iraq war right from the beginning. He must have been advised not to.
ONE DID not have to be an expert to notice that Romney did not present original ideas of his own. He parroted Obama's positions, changing a few words here and there.
Earlier in the campaign, during the primaries, it did not look like that. Clamoring for the votes of the right-wing base, he was about to bomb Iran, provoke China, battle Islamists of all shades, perhaps resurrect Osama Bin Laden in order to kill him again. Nothing of the sort this time. Only a meek "I agree with the President."
Why? Because he was told that the American people had had enough of the Bush Wars. They don't want any more. Not in Afghanistan, and certainly not in Iran. Wars cost a lot of money. And people even get killed.
Perhaps Romney decided in advance that it was enough for him to avoid looking like an ignoramus on foreign affairs, since the main battleground was in the economic sphere, where he can hope to look more convincing than Obama. So he played it safe. "I agree with the President..."