Politics & Policy

Israeli Voters: Bibi Yes, Barack No!

Netanyahu on the campaign trail.
Obama’s clumsy attempts to interfere may have helped more than hurt Netanyahu.

Israeli voters on Tuesday sent Obama a two-word message, and it was not Shabbat shalom.​

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defied pollsters’ predictions of impending doom and surged to a stunning victory. His Likud party’s strength in the Knesset swelled from 20 seats today to 30 in the incoming parliament. He is expected easily to build a majority coalition of at least 61 center-Rightists in the 120-member chamber.

Netanyahu’s election-eve promise to block a Palestinian state drove Likud members and other conservatives to the polls. Also helpful: Obama’s petulant and unconcealed disgust with America’s closest ally in the Middle East.

Recall that a senior Obama aide last October called Netanyahu “a chickens**t.” Another, also quoted in The Atlantic, called him a “coward.”

Early this month, Obama’s tantrums over the Israeli’s allegedly protocol-breaching speech to Congress — and the boycott of it by 58 Democrats — transformed what would have been a moderately reported talk into a momentous occasion, as anticipated and analyzed as a State of the Union address. Obama then rudely announced that he did not watch Netanyahu’s remarks and dismissed them as “nothing new.”

“The most durable boost to Bibi was the White House’s campaign against his congressional speech,” observed Dan Senor, co-author of Start-Up Nation, an inspiring volume on Israel’s entrepreneurial culture. “This did more to help Bibi consolidate the Right than anything.”

Obama claimed in September 2012 that he was too busy to meet Netanyahu, either in Washington or after Obama lectured the United Nations General Assembly. While in Manhattan, however, Obama found time to visit ABC’s The View. Co-host Whoopi Goldberg called him “eye candy.”

Obama again refused to see Netanyahu during the Israeli prime minister’s early-March trip to America, explaining that it might sway Israeli voters. Obama’s feigned, Swiss-style neutrality was, of course, a hoax.

The State Department already had contributed $350,000 to the anti-Netanyahu One Voice Movement and its subsidiary, Victory 15 (or V-15). Obama’s 2012 national campaign director, Jeremy Bird, flew to Israel to lead this effort, which was supported by other Democratic strategists. A bipartisan U.S. Senate panel is probing this apparent abuse of taxpayer funds.

“People and foreign advisers and associations are going to hundreds of thousands of households” to rally Likud’s opponents, Netanyahu said on the stump. “The gap between Labor and Likud is based primarily on foreign funds that flow in vast quantities to leftist NGOs.”

This likely was the last straw for many Israelis sick of seeing their morally courageous leader slapped around by the juvenile Obama.

“The specter of leftists armed with foreign money helped convince right-wingers who hadn’t voted in years that the Right was in real danger of losing,” Times of Israel political analyst Haviv Gur says. “It is probably fair to say that V-15 got more right-wingers to the polls on Election Day than left-wingers.”

Unlike Secretary of State John Kerry and the leaders of Canada, Great Britain, and India, Obama did not promptly congratulate Netanyahu. After this triggered incessant criticism, Obama finally rang the Israeli premier late Thursday afternoon. In contrast, on the very day that each won power, Obama commended China’s Xi Jinping, Egypt’s now-deposed Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani.

Meanwhile, White House political director David Simas patted Israelis on their heads merely for voting, as if they were citizens of a banana republic escaping military rule. “We want to congratulate the Israeli people for the democratic process,” Simas said, “for the election that they just engaged in, with all the parties that engaged in that election.”​

“The U.S. government pressure and the negative campaign by V-15 and other outside groups boomeranged,” the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick told me. “According to media commentators here, people were alienated from the message. As for Obama, Israelis don’t trust him. They were angry at the way he treated Bibi when he went to Washington and, in the end, rallied behind him. In a way, the biggest loser in this election was Obama.”

Obama must be riven by acid reflux. He aspired to be Bibi’s chief nemesis. Instead, he turned himself into Netanyahu’s secret weapon.​

— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Note: This article has been revised since its initial publication.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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