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With Romney Visit, Bibi Places His Bet

Israeli prime minister risks relationship with U.S president into 2017

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Prime Minister Netanyahu Sunday.(Abir Sultan/AFP/GettyImages)

Some may try to argue that Mitt Romney’s planned trip to Israel is a mistake, or will backfire: that he could be seen as out-of-touch to what voters care about; that he might make a gaffe. They will be wrong. Romney is inoculated from charges that he is focusing on the wrong issue at the wrong time, because President Obama visited Israel as a candidate at almost the exact same point in the election cycle four years ago. Any gaffe he makes, like his earlier “do the opposite” gaffe—an honest-to-God gaffe, to be sure—is going to have a short shelf life in an election dominated by domestic issues. This is a smart move for Romney, allowing him to portray himself as strong on the token foreign policy/values issue of the campaign and highlight the fact that Obama didn’t visit Israel as president despite giving a big speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. (Here is Romney adviser Dan Senor on television explaining the rationale behind the trip. It’s quite persuasive.)

… But what about for Prime Minister Netanyahu? Here is where things get slightly more interesting. Netanyahu can cast himself as a benign party here, simply the leader of Israel looking for good relations with both sides of the American partisan aisle. But this jibes against Romney’s own narrative of a beef between Netanyahu and Obama. And it jibes also against what we know to be reality—that there is a beef between Netanyahu and Obama; that Netanyahu is a conservative who actually frequently calls to mind nothing so much as the world’s most talented and effective Republican politician; that Netanyahu would almost certainly prefer President Romney to President Obama.

Chemi Shalev goes through the potential problems for the prime minister: “Netanyahu will be hard pressed to convince anyone that his statements are benign and his intentions only honorable,” he notes. And he highlights the stakes:

If Romney goes on to win the elections, of course, Netanyahu’s gamble will pay handsome dividends, especially in a close contest in which Jewish voters in battleground states are perceived to have made all the difference. But if Obama wins—and the current odds are 50-50, no more and no less—Romney’s summer visit will add to the significant reservoirs of ill will that have already accumulated on both sides of the Israeli-American divide. Of course, people in Jerusalem might believe that things can’t get any worse, but in such situations, they usually do.

He’s overstating the importance of Jewish voters; it also isn’t exactly 50-50 (Nate Silver puts it at 68.6-31.4, and I imagine most Republicans would give Obama a slight edge right now). But Shalev is absolutely right to call this a gamble. And what’s remarkable is that it’s a gamble Netanyahu appears to be deliberately making. News of Romney’s trip came not from Team Romney but from Team Bibi—specifically Ron Dermer, Bibi’s aide-de-camp, whom Allison Hoffman profiled last year.

Florida-born, Frank Luntz-trained, Dermer comes out of American politics and has never taken his fingers off its pulse. He and his boss have every right to make this gamble; it’s still the U.S. voters who get to pick the next president. But is it wise? I’d hate to be Netanyahu—or Dermer—the day after Obama is re-elected.

Romney Plans Trip to Israel [NYT]
Romney’s Visit Might Be a Minefield for PM Netanyahu [Haaretz]
Related: Bibi’s Brain [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: On Doing the Opposite

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edlobel says:

Willard Romney has no evidence of supporting Israel! Has he donated any money? NO, Has he voted in favor of anything daling with Israel? NO, Is he a devout Mormon? YES! does he follow Mormon teaching? YES! Has he baptized deceased Jews intro his religion so they can gain entrqance into Mormon heaven? YES. Does he believe in the
Christian view of the “rapture” YES! Does he only support Israel to try to gain America’s Jewish vote? YES. Enough said!

    michael perks says:

    edlobel; I don’t “know” how a President Romney will behave. I only “know” how incumbant Obama has behaved. And not just on Israel. Both Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton are disciples of Saul Alinsky. Alinsky was a radical who plotted the downfall of America from within. This by using political means to wreck the economy. Don’t believe me. Look him up on line!

      edlobel says:

      Michael Perks – You are stupid and you kinow what Mark Twain said about arguing with stupid people, Don’t because they will bring you down to their level and you cannot win at their level!

      Telling a lie like the President and Hillary Clinton are disciples of Saul Alinsky is like saying Willard Romeny worshipd the devil!

michael perks says:

What risk? In a second Obama term, he can be the real Barak, who spent 20 years listening to Rev Wrights anti semetic, anti white, anti USA rants. I don’t expect anything will make it worse. But perhaps a Romney administration will remember that there is only one true democracy in the region. That Israel is our friend.

dansblog says:

I’m trying to understand the logic here…Obama visited Israel in 2008, as did McCain, and Netanyahu welcomed and met with them both–as one would expect from an Israeli prime minister. In 2012, Netanyahu’s position is identical–he’d obviously be delighted to host both presidential candidates–but only Romney is visiting Israel, while Obama is staying home. And Marc’s conclusion is that…it’s *Netanyahu*’s intentions toward *Obama* that are somehow less than benign and honorable????
It’s blatantly obvious who’s snubbing whom, here. Why is Marc so keen to avoid the obvious?

jmm64 says:

The writer mentioned Romney’s ”gaffe” when he mentioned at a speech that he would do the opposite of Obama’s Israel policy. I was present at the Romney’s speech when he spoke, and the crowd knew exactly what he meant by saying that he’d ” do the opposite of Obama ” and the crowd erupted in applause with a standing ovation. This writer’s bias towards Obama is quite apparent by the characterization of Romney’s statement as a ”gaffe”.
Also, I wonder how this writer along with others of similiar political views will be able to look themselves in the mirror in the event that Obama permits Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and,G-d Forbid, these weapons are used against Israel. I voted for Obama in 2008 and will not vote for him again in November. My hands will not drip with Jewish blood in the event of Israel being destroyed!

    Thank God you have come to your senses. Let’s hope the rest of the nation that fell swooningly into Obama’s open arms will realise the grip is crushing not warming.

Disgustedontheeastcoast says:

Don’t assume anything from polls that canvass opinions of liars and specifically of people who voted for Obama in 2008 and are smart enough to at least know that they and the rest of the “Kingdom” were stupid and blind idiots who elected a naked Emperor. It’s hard for them to wade through their cognitive dissonance and admit they are not re-electing him.


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With Romney Visit, Bibi Places His Bet

Israeli prime minister risks relationship with U.S president into 2017

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