Meddling in US Elections May Prove Costly to Netanyahu

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The blatant interference by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and of his patron, Sheldon Adelson, in the US elections have soured relations between the US administration and Israel, writes Ofer Shelah. Israeli security forces and diplomats, well aware of where their financial and military support comes from, know the price of this animosity.

You’d have to be in the United States these days in order to understand the can of worms that Benjamin Netanyahu has opened.

The American election campaign of 2012 is even more characterized by over-the-top, inflammatory rhetoric than the battle between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000 or the Republican manhunt of Clinton four years earlier. But worst of all is the fact that many people in the current administration — who are likely to serve in the oncoming administration as well — are convinced that Netanyahu is doing what he’s doing purposefully and intentionally. After all, Netanyahu is well acquainted with American norms. If Barack Obama wins the presidential race in less than two months, the damage that will be done to the Israel-United States relationship is inestimable.

All election campaigns have their negative side involving mudslinging and slurs against the character and deeds of the rival contestant. But no campaign has descended to the level adopted in the current Republican campaign against Obama. The president’s rivals use the right-wing media and films such as Dinesh D'Souza's 2016: Obama's AmericaThese portray Obama as an anti-American agent who reached the White House under false pretenses, someone whose true goal is to destroy United States’ might by changing the economic system that transformed it into a super power. Even Clinton was not accused of such things.

One of the most salient voices — with some of the deepest pockets — in the anti-Obama campaign is, of course, Sheldon Adelson, the single largest donor to Republican candidates. Adelson began with $24 million to Newt Gingrich — next to him, Mitt Romney is a left-wing liberal. As soon as Romney won [the Republican primary], Adelson began to shower him with money. Adelson even told Forbes magazine that he was ready to “spend up to $100 million” to defeat Obama, whom he views as a dangerous socialist. Regarding Adelson’s relationship with Netanyahu, no words are needed; it is enough to read Israel Today [an Israeli right-wing-oriented newspaper funded by Adelson].

Obama is also well acquainted with Netanyahu’s history vis-à-vis American Democratic administrations, from Netanyahu’s first term of office as prime minister. And if Obama’s memory should fail him, his secretary of state can happily fill him in on the details. Thus, from the perspective of the president of the United States, the Israeli prime minister’s words against the stance and commitment of the United States on the Iranian issue and Netanyahu’s public demands for actions that the American administration is not willing to take can only be interpreted as attempts to meddle in the neck-and-neck election campaign. All this, by the leader of a country that is politically and economically dependent on the United States and the single largest [foreign] recipient of the dwindling American treasury.

No other entity in Israel is as familiar with this special relationship as its defense system. Israel is dependent on the United States' goodwill for its large military acquisitions, the American stockpile depots on which Israel bases part of its emergency calculations and American diplomatic support of Israel in international institutions. Thus, Ehud Barak’s statement on September 11 — “we must clarify the disagreements with the United States behind closed doors” — is relatively mild phrasing to express the possible damage that may ensue from the present dispute. 

Obama is a closed man; few are privy to the inner workings of his heart. His ability to keep his emotions to himself has been the basis of Obama’s ability to cope with the circumstances of his singular life and of his meteoric rise to the highest position in the world. According to the public-opinion polls, Obama is likely to be re-elected unless Romney succeeds in closing the small gap between them.

But if Obama is re-elected, then at least the beginning of his second and last administration will be cold as ice to the current Israeli administration. Evidently, Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to live with such a scenario as he realizes that his life purpose — of rescuing Israel from a second Holocaust — is melting away. Others around him see him as acting irresponsibly or worse. But Israel’s military and diplomatic systems are painfully aware of the cost they may have to pay.

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Found in: us elections, us, romney, obama, netanyahu, israel, iran, benjamin netanyahu, adelson
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