Meddling Again Or Just A Courtesy?

In Benjamin Netanyahu's defense, maybe he just can't help himself. Meddling in American politics is just too tempting for him to resist.  And he's so good at it, just look at how he helped elect President Romney and his success in leading the Republican opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement. 

It didn't take long for Bibi to violate his pledge of neutrality in this year's presidential election.

Aides had been putting out the word for months — starting when Rudy Giuliani said Netanyahu and top officials of his government told hizzoner that they preferred Donald Trump because the PM feared Hillary might try to revive the peace process — that he intended to be strictly neutral and stay out of this year's campaign.

In fact, the word out of Jerusalem was that he wouldn't even meet with the candidates while in New York for the UN General Assembly because he wanted to avoid any appearance of meddling.  That didn't last long.

Unnamed Israeli officials blamed Donald Trump for the change.  They said that the GOP nominee requested the meeting and Netanyahu just couldn't say no. 

Not wishing to interrupt the Trump's debate preparations, Netanyahu and his veteran Republican operative, Amb. Ron Dermer, went to the candidate's eponymous tower, where they spent 80 minutes with him and his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Trump vowed to immediately recognize undivided Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital, if he's elected, but there was no mention from either side as to whether he repeated George W. Bush's unfilled vow to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Day One.

A statement by the campaign said "under a Trump administration, there will be extraordinary strategic, technological, military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries."  That is exactly what Netanyahu earlier in the week said already exists under the Obama administration when he thanked the President for the new aid package.

Trump aides — mainly his real estate lawyer who is also a part-time advisor on Israel — has said if elected he would disregard any limits in the $38 billion aid package signed this week in Washington and would have no objections to settlement expansion. 

Dermer is the one who engineered Netanyahu's virtual endorsement of Mitt Romney in 2012, and you know how well that worked out.

Having agreed two weeks ago to Trump's request for a meeting – at a time when aides were indicating the PM wanted to stay neutral and would not see the candidates on this trip —  Netanyahu's staff set up a meeting with Hillary for later Sunday at the W hotel.

Yes, previous prime minister's have met candidates in prior elections, but none had Bibi's reputation for meddling, clumsy meddling at that, especially on the day before the first presidential debate where Israel is likely to be a topic.

The meeting may have helped Trump because polls consistently show him trailing Clinton by wide margins among Jewish voters and that Republican Jewish donors aren't chipping in the way they'd normally do.  Even Bibi's benefactor, Sheldon Adelson, who pledged $100 million to help elect Trump has only given a few million so far and is putting his big bucks on the down-ticket races where Congressional candidates fear Trump will drag them down.

Maybe the Trump Tower meeting will help shake loose more of Sheldon's sheqls. 

Clinton didn't need the meeting to boost her among Jewish supporters, and she will likely remember this latest episode of Bibi's meddling if she becomes president.

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.