Can Bibi Repair Rift With Obama?

I've been unable to find another instance when an American political party allied itself so closely with a friendly foreign government for the purpose of defeating the policy of an American administration.

There has been no more outspoken foe of the Iran nuclear deal backed by the Obama administration than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor has there ever been a leader of an American ally who has plunged so deeply and so blatantly into domestic partisan American politics.

Netanyahu's failed effort, in partnership with Congressional Republicans and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) did irreparable damage to the longstanding tradition of bipartisan support for Israel and drove a huge wedge into the heart of the American Jewish community.  The PM's charge that the Iran pact was a mortal threat to the Jewish state was not shared by many in his own security establishment nor the majority of American Jews.

The Netanyahu-Republican alliance isn't new.  It dates back to the Clinton administration when Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud opposition, and House Republican leader and later speaker Newt Gingrich worked closely to foil the peace policies of Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.  A common denominator is Ron Dermer, a Gingrich aide in the 1990s and now Netanyahu's ambassador to Washington.

Republicans unanimously opposed the Iran deal, something more attributable to political loathing for the Democratic president than careful analysis of the agreement and any viable alternative.

This GOP-Netanyahu alliance is not because Republicans love Israel more than Democrats do, though that is a lurking danger.  Reliable polls show rank and file American Jews support the deal, unlike mega-wealthy contributors, AIPAC and other major organizations and their leaders.

Most Jewish members of Congress voted FOR the agreement, however.

Netanyahu's battle has opened up deep divisions within the Jewish community that could take years to heal, if that.

He will have a chance to begin the repairs when he meets with the President at the White House on November 9, but the omens are not good.  After the Oval Office meeting he will be honored by the American Enterprise Institute,  a conservative think tank that has been harshly critical of the Obama administration, where he can be expected to continue his attacks on the Iran deal to much applause.  It is easy to see how many in Washington would see the event and the timing as another of Dermer's little partisan games to poke a finger in Obama's eye.

Netanyahu, after waging a bitter, divisive and losing war against Obama's nuclear agreement for months, finds himself in a greatly weakened position not only with this White House but also with the Democratic Party, African Americans and a huge chunk of the Jewish community that supported the agreement and was deeply troubled by the battle he waged.  Republicans may not be that delighted with him either because he failed in his assignment to deliver the Jewish vote. 

JTA reports that Congressional Democrats are "no longer eager to return calls from the Israeli embassy."

AIPAC is in a similar bind.  Despite spending over $20 million – by its own boasts — it sacrificed its reputation for bipartisanship and failed to produce the votes Netanyahu and its GOP allies expected.

Both Israel and AIPAC have a lot of fence mending to do on both sides of the aisle and at the grass roots. 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.