Netanyahu’s gamble

Once again, as an American presidential election looms, the Israeli government is seeking to use it to achieve its own political goals. What is extraordinary is the highly public nature of its efforts. After his embassy in the US complained openly that president Obama would not re-arrange his schedule to meet with him on a recent visit to the US, itself a remarkable diplomatic faux pas, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now laying down ultimatums to the US about what it should do about Iran.

This is a major gamble by Netanyahu. It is true that the alliance of Christian Zionists, neoconservatives, and right-wing Jews in America tends to support hardline Israeli positions. But those groups were never going to support Obama so Obama has little to fear from them. The key question is how the rest of the country views Netanyahu’s efforts.

My sense is that most Americans are not likely to view favorably the leader of another country, even a close ally like Israel, injecting themselves into the US electoral process and trying to achieve its own goals by using such public pressure tactics. No country likes to see its elected leaders being pushed around by foreign leaders and this tactic has the real possibility of backfiring pretty badly on Netanyahu. In many ways, he reminds me a lot of Newt Gingrich, someone with a highly inflated sense of his own importance who gets petulant and stamps his feet if he thinks people are not paying sufficient attention and deference to his views.

It appears that Netanyahu is trying to swing the election in Mitt Romney’s favor. If Obama is re-elected, Netanyahu’s grandstanding may well hurt him down the road.


  1. says

    I’m wondering if the ‘snub’ by Obama was intentional or that he really couldn’t make room for the visit it onto his calendar. Those kinds of meetings are costly, just for the security alone, not to mention all the other planning needed. It IS election season and Obama’s campaign IS his top priority. I can’t imagine the ‘snub’ to be intentional, but I sure hope it was. I’m sick of all this photo-op sable rattling. I really hope our president was taking a stand… I have doubts. Maybe he’s finally figured out that there is no winning with that side of the isle.

  2. dmcclean says

    My reading of the situation is that the “snub” was along the lines of this: if we start planning and announcing bilateral meetings between the President and others speaking at the UN that day (actually, they are even speaking on different days I think?) then everyone will want theirs and that doesn’t mesh with the plan for the day. Much easier to just do it at the last minute and say it was a happy coincidence that both parties had time, doesn’t seem like a slight to all the others.

  3. Anonymouse says

    What in the world makes you think that Israel is an ally of the USA? They spy on us, they demand we fight their battles and supply them with weapons which they then use on us. Allies like this, we don’t need.

  4. blindrobin says

    Not faux pas or a snub on the part of Obamma who was not going to be in attendance Ny. Bibi did not request a meeting and made no effort to indicate that he would like one. Asshole that he is he is just bitched about being ignored like petulant child. He is just trying to do a little pro-Republican politicking and the Israeli press is calling him out on it.

  5. mnb0 says

    I think MS underestimates Netanyahu. He knows Obama will win. He knows Obama will not give in to the ultimata. He doesn’t try to influence the outcome of the American elections. He is playing hardball for his own Israeli supporters. He already knows there will be no war with Iran. So he now shows what a harliner he is -- and that Obama is the softie.
    He is playing a smart game of Black Pete, as we Dutch say. It’s a game he can’t lose. If Romney happens to be elected after all the first thing that will happen is even more pressure by Netanyahu.

  6. Dunc says

    That seems like a reasonable analysis. We should always remember than the vast majority of statements made by politicians about international relations are in fact aimed at domestic audiences.

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