Video: Israel uses ‘Golden Girls’ theme to suggest that Obama still likes Netanyahu

March 19, 2013

The Israeli embassy to the U.S. just posted this very unusual video, which is part of a larger media push by the Israeli government in advance of President Obama's trip there this week.

The video includes paper cut-outs of Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing their country's "unbreakable alliance" before retiring to Netanyahu's office. As the "Golden Girls" theme plays, they laugh over newspaper headlines about their poor personal relationship and share a few high-fives. The video ends with a link to a Web site that, in English and Hebrew, extolls the importance and unbreakability of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

It's no secret that, at least in the 18 months or so before Obama's reelection, he did not have the warmest personal relationship with Netanyahu. There were disagreements over Israeli settlement growth, the borders of a two-state solution and the appropriate response to Iran's nuclear program. Netanyahu, perhaps unwisely, lectured Obama from the floor of the U.S. Congress.

I say "unwisely" because, in Israeli politics, few things are considered more important for a prime minister than maintaining happy relations with Washington. There are few illusions in Israeli politics about the importance of U.S. support in everything from United Nations Security Council votes to regional security.

The perception is that Netanyahu sought to promote Mitt Romney in the presidential election because he believed Romney would be better for Israeli interests. Some observers believe it may have left Israel facing a less-sympathetic White House -- an impression that was not good for Netanyahu. Some suggested it might even hurt Netanyahu in Israel's January elections, had the left-wing opposition been better organized to capitalize on the issue. That never really happened, but it wouldn't be crazy for Netanyahu to want to combat the perception that he does not get along with Obama.

That's a long way of saying that Netanyahu needs to convince Israeli voters that Obama still likes him, and the Israeli government, separately, wants to reinforce the idea of the "unbreakable alliance" that's so important to the country's security and foreign policy. So that's the likely reason behind the unusual video. In any case, let's just be glad that Israeli Defense Forces social media team didn't work on this one.

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Max Fisher | March 19, 2013