Israelis are set to hit the polls for parliamentary elections on January 22nd, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a third term in office, and his prospects for reelection are looking fairly solid. His campaign is touting the rise of a nuclear Iran as priority numero uno, even over conflicts with the Palestinians, and recent polls are indicating that Netanyahu is the favorite leadership candidate for the coalition government.
It’s no secret that Netanyahu and Obama have a reportedly frosty relationship, but Bibi may be putting some of the president’s pre-election testiness to his own advantage to help boost his own campaign and bolster his characteristic no-nonsense, straight-talking image:
A day after US columnist Jeffrey Goldberg quoted US President Barack Obama as saying that Israel under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not know what is in its own best interest, Netanyahu visited the Gaza border Wednesday, was told that December was the quietest month in the last 12 years, and essentially replied to Obama: “Yes I do.”
“I think everyone understands that only Israel’s citizens will be the ones to determine who faithfully represents Israel’s vital interests,” Netanyahu said on a visit to an army base near Gaza in his first direct response to Obama’s reported criticism. “Over the last four years we stood up against strong pressure, and I will continue to do so for Israel’s security.
Fox News points out that the circulation of Obama’s reported comments, far from being detrimental for Netanyahu’s leadership prospects, might only help to band Israelis together further ahead of the election:
“Obama’s comments may well have the reverse effect in that many Israelis, even if they are not Netanyahu supporters, they are certainly not Obama supporters and may feel they should now come out and vote for Bibi.”
The remark, which was relayed as a private comment in a column written by Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg News, comes as Netanyahu faces an election of his own and is being widely viewed in Israel as meddlesome payback, not to mention a diplomatic trespass. But if that is the case, it may boomerang.
Senior representatives in Netanyahu’s governing Likud party seethed, accusing Obama of “gross interference.” But instead of undermining Netanyahu’s campaign, Idan Kweller, political correspondent for Israel’s high-profile Galay Tzahal radio, told FoxNews.com that the president’s comments may have had the reverse effect.
Sen. Rand Paul, who recently visited Israel with his own 2016 presidential ambitions certainly in mind, echoed Netanyahu’s sentiments earlier:
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., described President Obama as “arrogant and presumptuous” for reportedly claiming to have a better understanding of that country’s best interests than Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Paul, who just returned from a trip to Israel, followed with a more general statement. “[I]t’s not American politicians’ business to be dictating the answers,” he said. “I think it’s just presumptuous and arrogant of us to think, well, we’re going to go down to a roadmap of Jerusalem and decide where the neighborhoods can be expanded?”