Israeli leaders have a penchant for meddling in American politics. It goes back, at least, to 1972 when then-Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin expressed his support for the reelection of Richard Nixon. Benjamin Netanyahu is only the latest – and most blatant – practitioner. And he’s got some clumsy company.
Netanyahu’s denials of meddling in this year’s presidential election raise a lot of eyebrows. A pro-Romney super PAC is currently running anti-Obama ads in Florida using footage declaring, "The world needs American strength, not apologies" – a favorite Republican buzz phrase for their attacks on the President.
Netanyahu’s spokesman says he did not approve this message but it raises an important question: why hasn’t he objected to the use of his voice and image on this blatantly political ad and demand that it be pulled? Yossi Verter writes in Haaretz that in the eyes of the President and his top aides the PM has been engaging in "crude, vulgar and unrestrained intervention in the US election campaign."
The latest meddler and one of the most inept is Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem.
Writing in USA Today, he said he was “shocked and appalled” that the Democrats left out of their platform a reference to his city as Israel’s capital. In his myopic vision that marked a “shocking shift” away from “moral support” of Israel. He gave no credit for reinstating the language but instead complained how “appalled” he was that some delegates “booed” the fix, a sure sign of Democratic disrespect and hostility for Israel and Jerusalem. Anyone who watched the vote or the video – as I did, several times – it was clear the loudest objections came from people holding signs identifying them as Arab-Americans. Were they expected to cheer? Or should they be evicted from the party?
Barkat conveniently leaves out a number of important points, and that’s what makes his crude diatribe a serious case of blatant political meddling.
His strident attack on President Obama and the Democrats totally – intentionally? — ignores the Republican platform’s failure to include language from previous years that endorsed Jerusalem as the “undivided” capital of Israel and called for moving the American embassy there from Tel Aviv.
In light of his outrage over the Democratic platform, it is reasonable to interpret Barkat’s silence on the Republican platform as an endorsement. Barkat’s constituents should be asking him why he no longer feels the city should be undivided and why the U.S. Embassy should remain in Tel Aviv. And then ask him why he thinks it is in Jerusalem’s best interest for its mayor to wage war against the President of the United States, especially one who appears increasingly likely to be in office for another four years.