The evidence of President Obama’s antagonism toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over seven years has been amply documented. The results of Tuesday election’s were barely official before the administration embarked on its next round of anti-Israel tantrums.
First was Obama’s petulant refusal to extend his own personal congratulations. Then came the accusation of racism. On election night Netanyahu told his followers (and this was borne out entirely by the unprecedented success of the Arab Joint List, which gained 14 seats) that left-leaning activists were working to hike Arab turnout. (“Arab voters are coming in droves to the ballot boxes. Left-wing NGOs bring them in buses.”) It is not clear whether the “buses” part was metaphorical, but his accusation that left-wing groups sought his downfall by hiking the Joint List is beyond dispute.
The president’s former political operative Jeremy Bird, who assisted the nonprofit One Voice by going to Israel (who knew he had such a keen interest in Israeli politics?) to help unseat the Israeli prime minister. “We are doing an amazing job at getting out the vote with over 15,000 volunteers and more than 40 tents set up throughout Israel,” a spokesman for the left-wing V15 political action group, allied with One Voice, bragged, although he denied specifically busing voters to the polls.
Netanyahu was not marginalizing the Arab vote; to the contrary, he was recognizing what anti-Netanyahu activists, including Bird, already knew: The greater the Joint List turnout, the more members of parliament there would be who were overtly in favor of dissolution of the Jewish state and the greater chance Netanyahu would fall from power.
Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams (“Obama Buries the Hatchet — in Netanyahu’s Head” certainly is the most eye-catching headline in mounds of election coverage) points out that the administration initiated its “racism” campaign when White House spokesman Josh Earnest, without provocation, plunged into the topic: “[N]o reporter asked Earnest about this subject. So at the end of the questioning he simply went out of his way to criticize a statement Netanyahu had made about getting out Likud voters, to counteract what he said were massive left-wing efforts to get out the left-wing Jewish and Arab vote. The issue isn’t whether that Netanyahu statement was awful or admirable, but the conduct of the White House. The leader of a close ally wins a democratic election. President Obama takes the occasion to hit him again.” Earnest’s accusation hid behind the skirts of news reports, hissing that “there has been a lot of coverage in the media about some of the rhetoric that emerged yesterday that was propagated by the Likud Party to encourage turnout of their supporters that sought to, frankly, marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens” This is false. Turnout was known to be historically high, for unlike in most every Arab state surrounding it, Arabs in Israel are free to vote, do so in large numbers and can seat members of parliament who are free to defame the state. “The United States and this administration is deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Earnest sneered. Unfortunately, no reporter had the nerve to ask whether the president approved the campaign to use Arab voters against the prime minister.
Take a step back, however. Imagine a foreign leader’s press spokesman proclaiming that he did not like way Obama played the “war on women” card in the 2014 race. We’d be gobsmacked that any foreign leader would have the nerve to criticize our political campaign rhetoric, which can be boisterous and even outlandish.
Obama was not content to smear Netanyahu with racism — the worst charge a liberal can make. In the course of the campaign, Netanyahu said what many Israelis now understand — the peace process is dead so long as Islamic jihadists such as Hamas wage war on Israel and so long as the Palestinian Authority refuses to cease promoting terror (by, for example, paying terrorists in Israeli jails and celebrating terrorist “martyrs”). He said in an interview, “I think that whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel, this is the genuine reality that was created here in the past few years. Those who do not understand that bury their heads in the sand. The left-wing parties do it, bury their heads in the sand, time and again.” You can disagree with the statement or his agreement that there would be no two-state solution during his next term (does any objective observer think differently?), but he most certainly did not renounce the idea of a two-state solution. He could and would have said as much in those words. But, of course, the administration and media immediately decided that he had done just that, and a host of headlines and reports surfaced that he had repudiated the two-state solution.
On Wednesday night the threat went out, care of yet another helpful reporter (who allowed the administration source to go on background, did not challenge the gross display of strong-arming that would mark an unprecedented reversal of decades of U.S. policy, went to the notoriously anti-Israel J Street for approving comment and did not bother to include comment from any legitimately pro-Israel group, former official or neutral party): “The positions taken by the prime minister in the last days of the campaign have raised very significant substantive questions that go far beyond just optics,” a “senior” official was quoted as saying. The report continued:
While saying it was “premature” to discuss Washington’s policy response, the official wouldn’t rule out a modified American posture at the United Nations, where the U.S. has long fended off resolutions critical of Israeli settlement activity and demanding its withdrawal from Palestinian territories.
“We are signaling that if the Israeli government’s position is no longer to pursue a Palestinian state, we’re going to have to broaden the spectrum of options we pursue going forward,” the official said.
Interestingly, the report does note, “Another concern for Netanyahu allies is a recent White House staff shuffle, in which the national security director’s point man on Israel, Phil Gordon, departed and was replaced by Rob Malley, a former adviser to Bill Clinton. Malley’s ascension to the post of White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region drew outrage from some Israeli-American groups, who pointed to his past contacts, while a staffer at the non-profit International Crisis Group, with Hamas.” The report does not mention that Malley advocates direct talks with terror groups or that the administration previously promised Malley would not have Israel in his portfolio (facts that a pro-Israel group could easily have confirmed if contacted). It is telling that the liberal media would imply it is just those nettlesome “Netanyahu allies” who are concerned about a senior adviser who has met with terror groups.
The question now remains whether Democrats will sit meekly by — or worse, join in this anti-Israel drumbeat — or whether they and their inevitable 2016 presidential nominee will say, “Enough!” There is unfortunately a widening gap between the two parties in support for Israel, and a Democratic leader can be antagonistic toward Israel and still go far. But one supposes there are clear-headed Democrats (besides stalwarts such as Rep. Eliot Engel of New York and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey) willing to challenge the president on this. At least I hope there are.