Is This Week the End of Prime Minister Netanyahu?

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Is This Week the End of Prime Minister Netanyahu?

We’ll know soon whether this is the Washington Post reading too much into standard campaign rhetoric, or an accurate sense of a big shakeup coming this week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned supporters at a rally here Sunday that he and his Likud party may not win Tuesday’s election, a potentially dramatic fall for a consummate political survivor whose nine years in office transformed him into the public face of contemporary Israel.

A loss by Netanyahu — or a razor-thin win and the prospect that he would be forced to enter into an unwieldy “government of national unity” with his rivals — would mark a sobering reversal for Israel’s security hawks, in a country where the electorate has been moving steadily rightward for the past 15 years.

A detail in that poll they’re citing: “A majority of Israelis answer they want Netanyahu for Prime Minister, but they have issues with the Likud.” It’s easy to see foreign election results through our domestic political lens, but other countries’ voters make their decisions by their own criteria. A lot of news that’s big over there never makes a ripple over here. For example, the Netanyahus are getting flak for spending taxpayer money on cleaning services, take-out food, and so on.

Remember how the Obama administration’s big objection to the Bibi Netanyahu speech was that it represented an inappropriate sense of the American government taking sides in Israeli politics?

(Note we’re talking the American government, not Americans. Sure, Obama’s aides, like Jeremy Bird, are working on campaigns to replace Netanyahu. Haters gonna hate, and political consultants gonna consult. It’s a free country – two, really – and if Bird wants to work for opposition groups, he’s free to do so. Of course, if I were a foreign intelligence service interested in either the United States or Israel, political consultants would make an exceptionally tempting target, because they’re close to the leaders of the country and yet usually don’t have security clearance or familiarity with counter-surveillance techniques.)

But doesn’t Obama’s visible, visceral contempt for Netanyahu make it pretty obvious that our government is already taking sides in Israeli politics? The administration goes to Jeffrey Goldberg and calls Netanyahu “chicken****, recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and ‘Aspergery.’”

(Yes, “Aspergery.” No one in this administration gets to accuse anyone else of insensitivity to others, ever.)

In light of all that . . . a speech to Congress is going to suggest that the American government is taking sides in the Israeli elections? Really? That horse left the barn somewhere in Obama’s first term.

Our Quin Hillyer points out that it’s not like a new prime minister is going to dramatically change the way Obama sees Israel:

Americans should be embarrassed, even mortified, that Obama has tried so hard to undermine both Netanyahu and the entire case for Israel’s legitimate, existential interests. We should recognize that Israel — entrepreneurial, humane, and free — is a bellwether for civilization itself, and we should not let our own House and Senate members, Republican or Democrat, forget it. Because of Obama, the Israeli election has been roiled by questions about how the Obama–Netanyahu quarrels will affect Israel’s security. But Obama’s real quarrel is not with Netanyahu personally, no matter how much Obama pretends it is, but with Israel itself. He dislikes Netanyahu only because Netanyahu stands so strongly for Israel.

Hey, look, the choice is up to the Israelis. But we all know how those who detest Israel will greet a Netanyahu defeat. In their eyes, a Netanyahu loss is a win for them – not Israeli’s future.

The Campaign Spot

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