Israeli voters’ security concerns have boosted Benjamin Netanyahu’s popularity in the past month, helping him to skirt criticism of a widened rift with the White House as he aims for a fourth election success.
With violence on the Lebanese border and worries about Iran’s nuclear program high on voters’ minds, the conservative leader’s reputation for being strong on security helped to raise his approval rating to 51 percent from 46 percent in January.
The same monthly opinion poll, conducted on Sunday and published in the left-wing Haaretz daily, forecast Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party would win 25 of parliament’s 120 seats in the March 17 election against 23 for the center Zionist Union. Last month it gave Likud 22 seats and Zionist Union 23.

If President Obama intended to damage Netanyahu back home by throwing a fit over the House invitation for him to speak, it surely did not work as planned. The effort instead reveals just how woefully ignorant — or indifferent — Obama is about the region, about Israel and mostly about his own image.

The Middle East is under assault from Iran, its allies and its surrogates. Whether in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen or Iraq, Iran is projecting its power and seeking to destabilize Israel and its neighbors. Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and the cataclysmic danger the region and the West will face should Iran possess a nuclear weapons capability (thereby initiating a regional arms race) are the central issues for non-jihadist countries. Obama in effect is saying “shut up” to the leader of the  country most affected by the Iranian threat. As bad as that may be, even worse is Obama’s refusal to discuss the issue in broader terms. To the contrary, he is seeking rapprochement with Iran. His temper tantrum at the prospect that Netanyahu might discuss this within hearing range of lawmakers and the American people is not the sign of someone who is confident, has the facts on his side or knows what he is doing. The very fact that Obama made this into an international incident reminds Israelis — who overwhelmingly distrust him — how perilous their most important alliance is and how anxious Obama is to give away the store at the bargaining table.

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Obama must imagine he holds great sway over world opinion, for he is banking that his shushing of Netanyahu will cause a rally round the leader — him! In fact, as the poll suggests, the more the U.S. president attacks Netanyahu and acquiesces to Iran’s demands, the less credibility he will have in Israel, in Sunni Arab countries and, of course, in Tehran. The mullahs surely must conclude from this that Obama and Israel are out of sync, Obama intends to sell Israel down the river and Obama is desperate for a deal, no matter what the terms. Leaks continue to drip out of Vienna negotiations suggesting that the West is prepared to let Iran keep its nuclear weapons infrastructure — precisely what we committed once upon a time to disabling, by force if need be.

The hideous murder of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, burned to death by agents of the Islamic State, could not make it any more clear that we are in a battle for Western civilization — really, any civilization — against Islamic jihadists. And yet all that induces from Obama is another bland and empty statement of condemnation. One has the distinct impression that he is much more aggrieved by Congress and Israel, which stand in the way of his capitulation to the jihadists. Israelis have noticed this as well. And that pretty much explains why they are rallying around the toughest prime minister they can find.

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