Opinion: American Presidents Have Played a Strong Role in Israeli Politics
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel attacked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu yesterday for choosing the “wrong candidate” in the US presidential election, by supposedly opposing Barack Obama.
“He said that Prime Minister Netanyahu had bet on this election, this American election, and had lost,” asserted Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who was a moderator and interviewer at the Saban Forum where Emanuel spoke.
Emanuel’s remarks were supported in public and private by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who called Netanyahu’s treatment of Obama “a slap in the face.” Olmert referred specifically to the US election and also to the Israeli government’s decision this week approving new Israeli settlements – a decision that followed PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas’ unilateral push for Palestinian statehood at the UN, which Israel sees as a fundamental breach of Israel- PLO treaties.
Olmert, charged that Netanyahu had gotten involved in an unseemly manner in the American political process, both directly and also through the actions of millionaire Sheldon Adelson, who supports Netanyahu and some Republicans.
“It’s not our business” to get involved in American politics, said Olmert, the first Israeli prime minister convicted for a criminal offense. “I was very upset not when Mitt Romney came to the State of Israel,” said Olmert referring to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“But it’s the whole set-up,” Olmert explained. “It’s about this guy who decided – after he bought the whole political system in Israel- who thought he can [sic] buy the whole political system in America with a hundred million dollars.”
Now Mayor of Chicago, Emanuel is still seen as a close adviser of President Obama, and it is unlikely he would have made such critical remarks of Netanyahu in a public forum without getting some approval from the White House.
Politicians in Chicago and Jerusalem do not always play by the same set of rules, but the remarks of Emanuel and Olmert raise several questions:
– Did Netanyahu actually oppose Obama’s re-election and support the candidacy of Republican Mitt Romney?
– Do Israeli politicians take a more active role in US politics than American politicians take in Israeli politics?
– Do Israeli politicians control all the activities of their US donors?
The answer to these questions appears to be a strong ‘no.’ Netanyahu did not make campaign appearances for Romney, nor did he raise money for him. Netanyahu said he was not backing either candidate in the US elections. Indeed, a Google search reveals not a single Netanyahu quote indicating preference for Romney.
Meanwhile, both Democrat and Republican presidents have played a strong role in Israeli politics, through policy steps, pronouncements and through personnel.
President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, reneged on a pledge for loan guarantees to Israel in 1991-92 for the absorption of a massive wave of Soviet Jewish immigrants, undercutting Yitzhak Shamir and clearly supporting Yitzhak Rabin.
President Bill Clinton pulled back on a pledge to release Jonathan Pollard as part of the talks at Wye River in 1998, undercutting Netanyahu, while Clinton’s top pollsters – James Carville and Stanley Greenberg – went to work for Labor Party challenger Ehud Barak in 1999-2000.
This recalls how in the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration sent the CIA into Central America and Iran to undermine regimes it disliked. In the 1990s Clinton sent James Carville. In 2012, someone sent Rahm Emanuel.
Why is no one concerned about the interference in Israeli politics? Beyond the double standards some US politicians employ for Israeli activities in the US versus US actions in Israel, there is a problem regarding the neocolonialist view of US officials and their Jewish advisors who feel that Israel ought to be governed by the Saban Forum. Apparently some failed Israeli politicians also agree.
The writer, a PhD, is an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. This article was origianlly published by the Jerusalem Post. Republished here with permission of author.