With all of the talk about the unique Israel-America relationship, American interference in Israel’s democratic elections is indeed uniquely offensive. In this week’s upcoming election, and in many previous Israeli elections the American President has been active in attempting to help the left win in the only real Middle Eastern democracy. This is no way to treat one’s so-called “closest ally” – and America does not involve itself in this way in Russia or European or Asian countries.
No matter who is elected as the next Israeli Prime Minister, when elections are held this Tuesday, one can rest assured that Israel will remain the only country in the Middle East where the American flag isn’t burnt regularly.
An update on the most recent case in point:
- Last week, a few days before the Israeli elections, President Barack Obama was quoted as saying “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” Obama reportedly commented that with “each new settlement announcement, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.” The leak of this comment is clearly an attempt to get Israelis to vote for someone Obama would be ideologically closer to than Netanyahu – but I wonder if the heralded Start-up Nation needs Obama to tell its free citizens how to vote? Perhaps Obama should focus on the many countries in the Middle East which are hostile to the United States.
This isn’t the first time American intervention has occurred on the eve of Israeli elections:
- In 1992, when Israeli Prime Minister Shamir refused to surrender to President George H.W. Bush’s demands that Israel stop building in Judea and Samaria, Bush withheld loan guarantees on the eve of Israeli elections. He then dispatched his Secretary of State James Baker to campaign for the Labor party. Indeed, Shamir lost the election and polls showed that the Israeli public was upset about the crisis between America and Israel and reacted accordingly. (The aftermath of this election brought Israel the Oslo peace process which has resulted in tens of thousands dead. Had America not intervened, perhaps the Middle East would be safer today.)
- Four years later Bill Clinton did everything he could to aid then PM Shimon Peres in his bid to stay in power – including making a virtual joint campaign appearance. The President appeared with Peres in Israel and in the U.S. during the campaign and repeated Labor Party electoral slogans almost verbatim.
- In the late 1990s, Ehud Barak was enlisted by President Bill Clinton to help bring down Netanyahu’s government. Clinton went so far as to pressure the coalition partners of Netanyahu’s Likud to bring down the government – and Clinton’s close aides and political strategists. James Carville, Stanley Greenberg and Robert Shrum ran Barak’s election campaign. (Barak is almost universally regarded in Israel as an awful Prime Minister. In late 2012 he announced his resignation from political life.)
American meddling in Israeli elections is offensive, and it must end. Politically, and from a public relations standpoint, Israel should remind America of the many benefits it brings to the table as an ally – and not just vice versa.
The great Prime Minister Begin once told an American ambassador that “we are not a banana republic” – and Israel continues to thrive and flourish.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR and a passionate supporter of Israel.