Israel,  Obama,  Stateside

Netanyahu-Boehner vs. Herzog-Livni

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu recently appeared in this campaign video in which he is depicted as the only adult in a room of misbehaving children– all of whom happen to represent the Likud’s former coalition partners.

The Central Election Committee has banned the ad for violating a rule against using children in campaign ads. But I imagine it didn’t win Bibi a lot appreciation among some of the politicians he may need to form a coalition in case he has the job of putting together a new government after the March elections.

Meanwhile the not-so-tacit alliance between the Republican party in the US and the Likud party in Israel became more obvious than ever when Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on March 3– two weeks before the Israeli election. Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democratic minority in the House, called it inappropriate.

The speech will give Netanyahu the chance to warn once again of the imminent danger of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons– which he has every right to do. He will use the opportunity to lobby for tougher sanctions on Iran. A bill has been introduced in Congress that would impose further sanctions on Iran if no agreement on Iran’s nuclear program is reached by the current deadline of July. I’m inclined to support such a bill, but President Obama believes it would wreck the current negotiations, and has threatened a veto. Of course Obama hasn’t ruled out tougher sanctions if negotiations fail.

Still, an agreement that really does prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons seems preferable to the alternative– an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities which may or may not cripple it but would almost certainly invite retaliation.

However the identification of Bibi and the Likud with the political opposition to Obama strikes me as unhealthy– especially since Obama is going to be president of the United States for two more years, like it or not.

Obama has no plans to meet with Netanyahu when he is in Washington.

I wonder how this is going over politically in Israel.

I expect Obama would much prefer a victory of the Isaac Herzog-Tzipi Livni “Zionist Camp” coalition (which is in a very tight race with Likud)– but unlike Boehner and the Republicans with Bibi, he at least is not being explicit about it. The fact that 65 percent of Israelis don’t want Bibi to continue as prime minister was probably behind this ad from the Herzog-Livni camp:

A fascinating sidelight to the Israeli political campaign is that the Likud has rehired American political consultant John McLaughlin to advise their campaign.

That would be the same John McLaughlin who projected a 34-point victory for Congressman Eric Cantor last June in his Republican primary in Virginia. Instead, Cantor lost by 10 percentage points. (I wonder if this has got any attention in Israel.)

If I were a Likudnik I would hope he understands Israeli politics better than he apparently understood the politics of Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District.

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