Who Anointed Bibi?

Benjamin Netanyahu said he is coming to Washington next month, as he went to the memorial services in Paris, "as a representative of the entire Jewish people." 

Who anointed him?

I don't recall any election for leader of the Jewish people.  He doesn't speak for me or millions of other American Jews. I don't recall voting for him or for anyone leader of the Jews.

Netanyahu is the elected leader of the secular state of Israel (although some there would like to turn it into a theocratic state where Jewish law, halacha, takes precedence, but that's another issue).

Netanyahu was elected two years ago this month and has called a snap election for next month which, he hopes, will solidify his power and move his base farther into the nationalist and settler camps.

As Israel's head of government, he's right when he says he has an "obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country." That includes, he said, creating a "confrontation" with Israel's most important — and often only — ally over "serious disagreements…over the best way to achieve the security of Israel."

Many believe, including this writer, that he is doing unnecessary damage to his country's security and its critical alliance with America by a creating needless and harmful confrontation with the U.S. government for his own personal, partisan purposes. His attacks are more likely to undermine the negotiations with Iran than bolster the opposition to Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Netanyahu has become a witting accomplice — or an unwitting dupe — in a Republican campaign to drive a wedge between Democrats and Israel and undermine the bipartisan coalition that has been the durable foundation of the American-Israeli alliance. 

The effectiveness of Netanyahu's anti-Obama campaign can be seen in a new poll that shows most Israelis feel US-Israeli relations have seriously deteriorated under Netanyahu.

Repairing the schism will do more to assure united American opposition to a nuclear Iran than more petty partisan posturing.

Here are some numbers to consider:

•  In the 2013 elections, 3.7 million Israelis went to the polls.  In a country where 80 percent of the population is Jewish, that indicates 2.96 million Jews voted.  Of those, Netanyahu's Likud got 885,163 votes, or 23 percent, according to government figures.

•  Just three months earlier, 129 million Americans went to the polls.  Jews constituted an estimated two percent of those voters, and 69 percent of those voted for Barack Obama, about 1.8 million.

That means in their last elections, Obama got 1.8 million Jewish votes compared to Netanyahu's 885,163.  Just under half of what Obama got.  So who really speaks for the Jews?

So since Obama got more than double the Jewish votes that Netanyahu did, does that mean he, and not the prime minister, speaks for American Jews?  Of course not.  And neither does Netanyahu.

They are political leaders who speak for their governments.

Don't get too excited when you see the leftist J Street pro-Israel lobby launch a petition campaign declaring "Bibi does not speak for me."  The right wingers are bitterly denouncing J Street as undermining Israel, but the tables will turn when there's a leftist government in Israel ready to make peace with the Palestinians.  Then the petition will be in the other hand and partisan groups like Emergency Committee for Israel will be taking out ads saying that PM "does not speak for me."

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.