Obama Won’t Win in Israel

January 21, 2013 10:20 am 7 comments

Barack Obama with Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. Photo: Pete Souza.

Who said President Obama dislikes Benjamin Netanyahu? It is simply not possible to imagine a bigger favor the President could have done for the Prime Minister than the “accidental” (wink-wink) report by Jeffrey Goldberg about the depth of Obama’s frustration and disgust with the soon-to-be-reelected Israeli leader. If there was a phone call between Jerusalem (you know, this mythical city which is most certainly NOT the capital of Israel per the Obama administration) and the White House, it should include Netanyahu’s “I owe you one” to Obama.

The biggest problem of the united list of Netanyahu, and Avigdor Liberman of the Israel Beitenu party, which plagued the new Likud-Beitenu partnership in the polls from the very beginning, was the disturbing lack of a credible foe. The telling inability of the wannabe leaders of the Israeli Left to put aside their egos and unite in the face of an apparent mortal threat to Israel’s future both as a Jewish state and as a democracy not only exposed the hollowness of their apocalyptic propaganda, but also deprived Netanyahu of an enemy to be vanquished. Arthur Finkelstein, Netanyahu’s political guru and acclaimed purveyor of negative campaigning, found himself on unfamiliar ground and failed to adjust. In America, the two-party system and the territorial voting structure always provide for a credible opponent. In Israel, for the first time, the reelection of Netanyahu being a foregone conclusion, both camps, the Left and the Right, turned inward, trying to score points in a frustrating zero-sum game, with the tandem Likud-Beitenu list emerging as the main loser.

Buttressed by the displeasure of the Right-wingers over an abrupt and indecisive ending to the recent “Pillar of Defense” operation, Naftali Bennett and his redecorated National-Religious “Jewish Home” party were rising steadily but stealthily, until the Likud campaign decided to pounce on Bennett’s heartfelt prime-time confession that he, as a combat officer, wouldn’t be able to follow an order to evict Jews from their homes. What followed provided a great deal of joy to those who hope one day to see Israeli society free itself from knee-jerk veneration of the Army. Instead of heeding the accusations that Bennett is a dangerous dissenter, the public (both religious and secular) signified its approval of Bennett’s honesty in the polls. Nor did it help that a few days later, the Israeli State Comptroller released a damning report on the so-called “Harpaz affair,” exposing the office of the then-Chief of General Staff of the IDF Gaby Ashkenazi as a hub of nasty, dirty and borderline criminal intrigue against the Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and his designated appointee to replace Ashkenazi – Yoav Galant.

In the long run, the exposure of moral nakedness in the highest office of the army will be incredibly beneficial for the development of healthier relations between the military and civil society in Israel. In the short run, it gave weight to the primacy of moral values of the individual over military orders, but also helped Netanyahu, when the ex-Chief of the SHABAK secret police Yuval Diskin came forth with a new batch of personal accusations against the Prime Minister and Ehud Barak. In the face of the “Harpaz report,” Diskin’s assertion that “the security professionals” – himself, Ashkenazi and ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan – acted only in the best interests of the country, while Netanyahu and Barak played politics, rung hollow and made almost no discernible impact.

Yet the Likud-Beitenu list continued to hemorrhage mandates almost to the end of the campaign, when the decision to switch to a more positive tone emphasizing the achievements of the outgoing coalition and the importance of securing a large faction behind the Prime Minister changed the trend somewhat. Looking desperately for worthy opponent that could help unite and “bring home” Likud voters, Netanyahu was clearly relieved when the leaders of three “Center-Left” parties – Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yachimovich and Yair Lapid – made a last-ditch effort to develop a common agenda. Here it was – the threat of a united Left, an ultimate bogeyman for any true Likudnik. How disappointed Netanyahu must have been when this “triumvirate” collapsed in a matter of hours!

So the unexpected missive of the American President via Jeffrey Goldberg couldn’t have come too soon for Netanyahu. Here, finally, was a worthy opponent that could be used to wake up and gather home those elusive Right-wing voters. And while Netanyahu himself was careful not to get into a direct conflict with Obama, he had no shortage of proxies to drive the point home – the best answer to the man in the White House is the strong Likud.

Nobody can predict whether Obama’s intervention will indeed help Netanyahu or that the centrifugal effect of the Israeli political system will win over. The proportional structure of the Israeli parliamentary system does not encourage unity.  So long as the voters of the Right believe that Netanyahu will remain the Prime Minister whomever they vote for, they feel themselves free to vote for other parties within the block – Bennett first and foremost. Netanyahu is also struggling against the decade-old memory of the Israeli public– in 2003, Ariel Sharon brought Likud to 38 mandates, which grew to 40 after the absorption of Nathan Sharansky’s “Yisrael B’Aliya,” and a year later he used all this might to set in motion the “disengagement” plan, which ended in the uprooting of ten thousand Jews from the Gaza Strip, the creation of the Hamas enclave on Israel’s Southern border and thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians. Moreover, for the majority of Israelis the most pressing concerns are economic – Netanyahu himself just recognized this when in a brilliant but slightly desperate move he appointed Moshe Kahlon, the hero of the Israeli middle class, the conqueror of the fat cats of the mobile communications industry, as the Chairman of the Israeli Lands Authority, and charged him with lowering housing prices.

Nevertheless, Obama’s standing in Israel is so low, that his disapproval of Netanyahu and his indirect endorsement of Tzipi Livni (whose standing in the polls went into a free fall immediately after its publication) may yet help Likud Beitenu. One proof of that can be found on Naftali Bennett’s Facebook page. Trying to seize the new opportunity, Bennett cheerfully updated his friends that the White House is apparently very concerned with his meteoric rise. “We will hear what America has to say,” – he promised – “but we’ll do what’s best for Israel.” Obama’s monumental arrogance, his apparent lack of belief in the intelligence of the Israeli voter, his disgraceful treatment of Netanyahu and, more than everything else – his disastrous courting of the Islamist movements throughout the Middle East, has brought American influence and prestige to a new low in the one place where it was never considered possible to happen. Any proposed settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict requires the Israeli public to have full and complete trust in the American President. The results of the elections on January 22nd will show just how much this trust is now absent.

7 Comments

  • who cares what Obama and his ilk think, followers of Alinsky and his radicals, destroyers of the USA. Leftist people are too stupid too see waht is going in.

    Annes Judea and Samaria and destroy Al Aksa and Dome of the Rock. They are a shame on the Temple Mount.

  • Karen Jennings

    as an American, and also aChristian, I can tell you we are fed up with and disgusted at our present administration. I stand with Israel and deeply care about the Jewish people. every one I know is praying for peace in Jerusalem. those who do not support Israel do so at their peril.

  • Michael Venables

    Who cares about what the Israeli government thinks… they are legends in their own minds. Americans, at least 98% of them, are fed up with the Jewish lobby in their own country. Get lost! Go sponge some others!

  • elliot j. stamler

    People like Mr. Elman are a godsend to the J St./Peace Now leftists. By assailing our president and contributing to friction he profoundly harms Israel because he is too dumb and prejudiced to appreciate that the vast majority of AMERICAN Jews voted for and like our president and more and more are beginning to view Israelis like Elman as just foreigners rather than coreligionists.

    • If by “co-religionists” you mean those (regardless of residence) whose religion is Socialism, rather than Judaism, you are quite correct. Americans born to the Tribe who worship Obama as Moshiach have a special place reserved for them at the front of the line—to the showers! Where do you think those wearing yellow stars marked “Jude,” scurrying between wagons holding clipboards, went when the trains departed for the camps? Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

      • Well said, Mel. Israel has always been strongest when she looks to her G-d, and not to power of numbers or might. Liberal Jews who condemn Israel catharticly, to dissociate themselves, are helping no-one. Cow-towing to radical Islam is fuelling many of the world’s conflicts. Radical Islam venerates hatred. It was the Jews who brought the world “Love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.