Netanyahu and the Election
Morton Zuckerman, the Demopublican multimillionaire media mogul predicted a week ago on the “McLaughlin Group” that Israel would not launch an attack on Iran before the election. The show’s prognosticators have a notoriously bad record, but because Zuckerman is a highly observant Jew and vigorous supporter of Israel whose connections go right to the top, I took that call very seriously.
The first conclusion I drew was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu somehow figured out that if Israel did attack, which would almost automatically draw America into the conflict, Barack Obama might actually benefit because the American public hates and justifiably fears a nuclear-armed Iran.
It’s well known that Netanyahu, a longtime friend and colleague of Mitt Romney, strongly dislikes Obama and would love to see him replaced with his old buddy. Some observers believed he might launch an “October surprise” attack before the election if he thought it would help defeat Obama.
Netanyahu of course denies wanting to play any role in our election. Nudge nudge, wink wink, as they used to say on Monty Python.
In a recent “Meet the Press” interview with David Gregory, Netanyahu’s not very convincing response to two political questions was, in effect, “I don’t want to be drawn into the American election.”
Gregory failed to ask the logical follow-up question: “Haven’t you already engaged in our election with your earlier speech to Congress, subtly criticizing Obama, and more recently hitting him for not drawing a strong enough ‘red line’ against Iran?”
To say nothing of trying to embarrass Obama for refusing a last-minute meeting request in mid campaign.
Netanyahu, however, is so uncomfortable being seen as interfering that he actually dispatched Defense Minister Ehud Barak—who plays “good cop,” praising Obama as a great friend of Israel—to ask Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to assure the president that Israel does not want to influence the American election.
That’s the same Rahm Emanuel whom Netanyahu once called a “self-hating” Jew–the term of art right-wing Israeli politicians hang on Jews who disagree with them. Emanuel apparently refused to carry the message.
Also last week Netanyahu addressed the United Nations in New York, bizarrely displaying a drawing of a comic-strip bomb representing Iran—sort of like the corny charts Ross Perot used in his TV talks during the 1992 presidential campaign.
Netanyahu drew a red line through the top portion, representing the point when an attack should be launched to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon. That little visual aid, however, confirmed Zuckerman’s prediction that the attack would not come before the election—a view also held by Middle-East specialists such as Marvin Zonis.
But there was also a change of tone regarding Obama. Netanyahu was almost complimentary to the president, which I interpret as a sign he believes Obama is likely to be re-elected. Friendship with Romney or not, he doesn’t want four years of frigid relations with an American president who no longer would have to prostrate himself before AIPAC, the Israeli lobby.
But there I go again, sounding like a self-hating Jew.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer
image King David Hotel, Jerusalem