Saturday, September 15, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Injects Himself and Israel into the U. S. Presidential Election – To the Benefit of No One

A Disservice to All Involved

Those who prognosticate on Presidential elections always fail to take into account events that are not foreseen, for the obvious reason the events are not foreseen.  For example, no one would have expected the Chicago Teachers Union to play a part in the current election, but there they are, out on strike and seriously damaging the very forces that are trying to help and protect them.

Another, and potentially more serious situation involves the Iranian efforts to construct a nuclear weapon, and the role that the United States and Israel will play in trying to stop that activity.  The center of all of this is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who desperately wants several things.  These are

  1. For his friend Mitt Romney to win the U. S. Presidential election.
  2. For the U. S. to attack Iran and destroy, if possible, its nuclear program.

So Mr. Netanyahu has set up several staged confrontations with the United States, all designed to reduce support for Mr. Obama and to build support for Mr. Romney.  The first thing he did was to request a meeting with Mr. Obama in New York when he knew that such a meeting could not take place.

The White House issued a statement saying that a meeting was impossible because “they’re simply not in the city at the same time.” Obama plans to depart New York immediately after his Sept. 25 address to the General Assembly, while Netanyahu will not arrive to deliver his speech until Sept. 27. Obama and Netanyahu, the statement said, were in “frequent contact,” and Netanyahu will meet with Clinton “and other officials.”

Obama, who will spend only one night in New York, does not plan to meet with any foreign leaders at the U.N. session, according to an administration official who spoke about the president’s schedule on the condition of anonymity.

The superficial story of course is that the President is refusing to meet with the Prime Minister even though both are going to be in New York for the UN meetings.  Of course that is not true, they will not be there at the same time, but truth in politics is never a constraint.

Of more critical importance is the fact that Mr. Netanyahu is now putting pressure on the United States to attack Iran.

In a blistering response to a Sunday statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States is “not setting deadlines” for Iran to abandon its alleged weapons program, Netanyahu said that if no “red line” is established, Iran will continue to pursue an atomic bomb.

“The world tells Israel: ‘Wait. There’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem.

This is obviously a ploy to get the U. S. to commit to military action, and a ploy to get Mr. Romney to contrast his own ‘get tough’ policy with that of the President’s ‘wait and see’ policy.

But Mr. Netanyahu is not reading the U. S. political tea leaves correctly.  He obviously thinks he can sway the Jewish vote in the U. S. to Mr. Romney with this talk, but other than Florida that vote is neither important nor decisive.  And even in Florida domestic issues are likely to take precedence over the Iranian question.

Even worse for Mr. Netanyahu’s goals, he is now putting Mr. Romney in a position where Mr. Romney might actually have to become more specific on his policy.  Mr. Romney abhors specificity on every issue, but to attack Mr. Obama he may have to embrace Mr. Netanyahu’s position of a U. S. attack on Iran.  There is no broad based support for this among anyone except people with the name of John McCain.  If voters perceive that Mr. Romney will embroil the U. S. in yet another war in the Mideast, his support will fall not rise.

So in the end Mr. Netanyahu damages U. S. support for Israel, damages the President and damages the Republican opposition.  A rare case where a set of actions does nobody any good. 

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