March 18, 2015

Bibi Wins, BO Loses

Obama’s meddling in the Israeli election likely sealed it for Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu stormed to an unexpected victory in Israel’s elections Tuesday, securing a fourth term for the prime minister. One key takeaway is that Barack Obama’s looming nuclear deal with Iran is very unpopular across the political spectrum in Israel, and it – combined with overarching security concerns – likely swung the election. Defeating the deal’s biggest critic was a no-go for Israeli voters, which means Netanyahu’s win is a big loss for Obama.

But America’s community organizer has never been gracious to opponents or humble in defeat, so the Israeli commando shouldn’t expect any congratulatory phone calls.

Netanyahu and his Likud Party trailed in the polls with voters concerned about Israel’s slowing economy, but in the final days before the election he increasingly stressed national security. The prime minister even reversed his previous position on a “two-state solution” with the Palestinians. No doubt his about-face was largely politically motivated, but it’s also the right position given Iran’s increasing hegemony in the region and its particular influence with terrorist groups afflicting Israel.

Netanyahu also warned that foreigners were trying to defeat him, no doubt referring to Obama. Netanyahu argued the election was so close because foreign money was flooding in to support his opponents.

One indication that might be true was this comment from the losing candidate, Isaac Herzog, head of the leftist Zionist Union Party, on the eve of the election: “This election is about hope and change. … Whoever wants hope, change and really a better future for Israel, vote for the Zionist Union under my leadership.”

It’s not clear how much money the Obama machine directed to Herzog’s campaign, but Obama’s sloganeering was all too evident. Perhaps that was the work of former Obama campaign director Jeremy Bird, who went to Israel to help Herzog.

Before Netanyahu addressed Congress earlier this month, Obama expressed concern about the speech’s timing being so close to the election. But it’s clear Obama’s real worry was that the speech would help Netanyahu win. His fear was founded. Israelis aren’t too fond of Obama and his constant antagonism toward Israel, and Netanyahu was a better choice than Herzog to stand up to Obama.

It would be simplistic to say the Israeli election was entirely or even mostly about Obama. But that doesn’t mean the Israelis didn’t hear him loud and clear last fall when he said of our own elections, “My policies are on the ballot.” Indeed, Obama lost. Israelis know the question is one of national survival, and they chose a real leader to ensure it.

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