Not too long ago, we asked our Israel Factor panel of experts to rank the possible candidates for Vice President on the very vague and general question of “good for Israel”. The current VP, Joe Biden, appeared to be quite popular with our panel – and he will most probably be the Democratic candidate for VP. As for the Republican field, our panel was more hesitant, with Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, both considered long shots, as the highest ranking (Biden got an 8 out of 10, Christie and Bush were at 6.78).
It now seems that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is one of the leading candidates for Mitt Romney’s running mate – as reported by the Drudge Report. Rice was not on our latest list of candidates, but her candidacy – if she becomes the nominee - will surely draw the attention of Israelis. Rice had good relations with former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but less good relations with his successor, Ehud Olmert (how strange would it be to have both her and Olmert making a comeback at about the same time – that’s so 2006).
Anyway, in the past we did ask the Factor panel a couple of questions about Rice, and the verdict was not very favorable. In 2008, when we asked the panel to identify the better candidates to be “special peace envoy” for the Obama administration, Rice was at the bottom of the list:
And even lower regard was saved for the person now running the peace process - Condoleezza Rice. The view of this panel is quite clear: Those who want a more vigorous process think that she’s just not up for the job, those who think it’s a waste of time will generally consider here to be too much into it. Thus, Rice gets low marks from almost all panelists.
Various panelists gave different answers about what’s bothering them, so there is no alternative but to assume that Rice is just a miserable victim of circumstances. The panelists who are worried by the possibility of American pressure on the Palestinian issue lowered her grade because they believe that some of her statements show she is over-committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Others, who really have no diplomatic problem with Rice or with a certain amount of American pressure, lowered her grade because their estimation of President Bush is very low and her loyalty to his policy causes them to doubt her intelligence.
In short, Rice was never a Factor favorite, but this was long time ago, when she was part of the Bush team. I’d assume she’d do much better today with the panel. As we’ve seen in the past, the panel feels more comfortable with the candidates it is familiar with – unless they have an unquestionably problematic record on Israel. Moreover, Rice is the one candidate Romney could bring in who’d hit the ground running when it comes to Middle East affairs. If one wants stability amid the chaos, Rice is a possible answer.
One caveat that should be taken into account: I don’t think official Israel is going to be happy about a Romney-Rice ticket unless it is reassured that Rice will not be the deciding force on Israel matters. In other words: adding Rice to the ticket will make the Romney ticket less appealing to the current Israeli government (but still more appealing than Barack Obama). And that’s probably another reason that it will make the ticket more appealing to some of our Factor panelists.