Favoritism: Six in ten Israelis think Obama meddled in their elections

posted at 9:21 am on March 20, 2015 by Noah Rothman

In order to avoid being accused of bias against Israel while opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, President Barack Obama’s supporters clung to the assertion that the GOP had displayed undue favoritism toward him and his party. It would be unseemly for the American government to indicate thorough its actions that it had a horse in this race by offering Netanyahu a platform like the Capitol Building just two weeks before Israelis went to the polls.

“I’m declining to meet with him simply because our general policy is, we don’t meet with any world leader two weeks before their election,” Obama told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in January. “I think that’s inappropriate, and that’s true with some of our closest allies.”

Loyal Democrats backed Obama up. “A number of respected Israeli national security and political leaders have criticized the address as improperly mixing American foreign policy with Israeli domestic politics,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) in a statement announcing his intention to boycott Netanyahu’s speech. “Creating such an impression is not only disrespectful to the Israeli electorate, it also undermines the institutional values that Congress should uphold.”

Of course, the Democrats’ case was undermined by the fact that Obama’s supporters also insisted that the president had been disrespected (a tired and often repeated refrain) when Republicans “failed to observe proper protocol” by not consulting with the president before inviting Netanyahu. Nevertheless, the president maintained that it was his administration’s policy to appear outwardly neutral to the Israeli government so as to not influence the elections.

It was an absurdly cynical charge. As Obama and his supporters were castigating Republicans for backing Netanyahu, members of the president’s 2012 reelection campaign with access to State Department funds was busily at work on the ground in Israel attempting to unseat the prime minister. (Via the Washington Free Beacon):

Last month, the Free Beacon reported on a private memo drafted in December by the nonprofit Ameinu, which outlined a plan for a coalition of groups to help increase Arab voter turnout in Israel.

Ameinu said in the memo that it was consulting with President Obama’s 2012 reelection team on the initiative. Obama’s former campaign aides, including the strategist Jeremy Bird, have been assisting an anti-Netanyahu voter drive led by V15 and OneVoice, Haaretz first reported.

The Ameinu proposal is strikingly similar to the [The Abraham Fund] Initiative’s “Broad-Based Action Plan to Increase the Participation of Arab Citizens in upcoming Elections for Knesset,” which it recently published on its website.

Anecdotally, reports have indicated that many average Israelis believed that Obama was far from a neutral observer of their country’s electoral politics. Some have noted that the revelation that members of the American president’s former campaign team were working with groups opposed to the Likud-led government was a big story, although it barely registered in the United States. We can quantify exactly how much of an effect this story had on Israeli voters.

According to a poll sponsored by The Jerusalem Post in February, twice as many Israelis say the president directly interfered in the country’s election than say he did not. 62 percent of respondents believe Obama was meddling in that country’s political process.

It is darkly humorous to recall that the bleating of Obama’s allies who warned that Republicans might be seen as interfering in Israeli politics were, as ever, projecting in order to deflect criticism from Obama for the same offense. More ironic, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon recently said that Obama’s intrusion into Israeli affairs constitutes a violation of a universally understood “red line.”

“If this is true, this is really crossing a red line because a democracy does not interfere with other democracies’ democratic process,” he told Newsmax host Steve Malzberg just before the vote. “Indeed, if this is true and will be exposed, it may backfire because the Israel public, like other democratic societies, [does not] appreciate outside or foreign interference.”

As a result of intemperance, petulance, and pique, the president has badly damaged America’s bilateral relationship with Israel.


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Comments

zzz

corona79 on March 20, 2015 at 9:22 AM

There is no if here. Obama DID meddle in their elections. It is a fact.

ConstantineXI on March 20, 2015 at 9:23 AM

The other 40% can read english.

WryTrvllr on March 20, 2015 at 9:25 AM

Haters gonna hate, agitators gonna agitate

trubble on March 20, 2015 at 9:26 AM

As a result of intemperance, petulance, and pique, the president has badly damaged America’s bilateral relationship with Israel.

He’s in good favor with the one in the well though.

Bmore on March 20, 2015 at 9:26 AM

I believe the Ways and Means Committee is investigating how those State Dept funds got used over there. For whatever that’s worth.

butch on March 20, 2015 at 9:30 AM

It’s getting harder and harder for me to read the news. Every day sings out a new insult to my sense of righteousness. Obama is creating a deeply unsettled, disturbing world. And there’s almost two more years of it to go.

MaxMBJ on March 20, 2015 at 9:30 AM

Six in ten Israelis think Obama meddled in their elections

Obama to those who didn’t vote in Israel: ” Hear You, Too”..

Electrongod on March 20, 2015 at 9:31 AM

Ameinu said in the memo that it was consulting with President Obama’s 2012 reelection team on the initiative. Obama’s former campaign aides, including the strategist Jeremy Bird, have been assisting an anti-Netanyahu voter drive led by V15 and OneVoice, Haaretz first reported.

 
Meh. Did you hear that some (R)s wrote some words in an op-ed about something?

rogerb on March 20, 2015 at 9:33 AM

Obama lies as he meddles.

Lies kill.

Meddling and lying at the same time enough said.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on March 20, 2015 at 9:35 AM

I believe the Ways and Means Committee is investigating how those State Dept funds got used over there. For whatever that’s worth.

butch on March 20, 2015 at 9:30 AM

Alas, like every other scandal this administration is involved in, IRS, F&F, etc., nothing will come of it.

chewmeister on March 20, 2015 at 9:36 AM

Obama will continue to blame Bibi

Barack don’t blame me obama

cmsinaz on March 20, 2015 at 9:37 AM

Obama’s former campaign aides, including the strategist Jeremy Bird, have been assisting an anti-Netanyahu voter drive led by V15 and OneVoice, Haaretz first reported.

Haaretz is the leftist media in Israel. They must be trying to salvage their credibility.

As to the actions of the Obama admin, the outcome of the election is poetic justice. Had they not interfered, Herzog may have pulled off a win.

lineholder on March 20, 2015 at 9:39 AM

So, Obama self-righteously mouthed platitudes about being neutral concerning the election in Israel while actually being hip-deep in political campaigning for one side.

He lied.

What’s really said is that this is kind of a “dog bites man” story.

Hey, has anyone noticed that the same president who opposes colonialism, American exceptionalism, and American arrogance abroad is far more willing to get involved in the business of other nations than any president in recent memory?

Or is that just me?

There Goes the Neighborhood on March 20, 2015 at 9:41 AM

Thats what community organizers do…they meddle and agitate

Privatize It on March 20, 2015 at 9:43 AM

More ironic, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon recently said that Obama’s intrusion into Israeli affairs constitutes a violation of a universally understood “red line.”

Dog pile eater hussein’s competence with red lines is well known…

RL on March 20, 2015 at 9:44 AM

It’s getting harder and harder for me to read the news. Every day sings out a new insult to my sense of righteousness. Obama is creating a deeply unsettled, disturbing world. And there’s almost two more years of it to go.
MaxMBJ on March 20, 2015 at 9:30 AM

Indeed. But what’s even more disturbing is the absence of any concerted effort from the collective Right to do anything about it.

Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 9:44 AM

We have never seen anything like this crowd in the White House. Never. And it gets worse daily.

TarheelBen on March 20, 2015 at 9:45 AM

We have never seen anything like this crowd in the White House. Never. And it gets worse daily.

TarheelBen on March 20, 2015 at 9:45 AM

This^^^^^

chewmeister on March 20, 2015 at 9:47 AM

Six in ten Israelis think Obama meddled in their elections

Six in ten Israelis are correct.


Obama’s former campaign adviser working on anti-Netanyahu campaign in Israel


Former Obama Strategist In State Department-Funded Group Worked On Anti-Bibi Campaign In Israel

Star Bird on March 20, 2015 at 9:50 AM

Last month, the Free Beacon reported on a private memo drafted in December by the nonprofit Ameinu, which outlined a plan for a coalition of groups to help increase Arab voter turnout in Israel.

It would be nice if they would do the same for Arab voter turnout in Saudi Arabia.

Akzed on March 20, 2015 at 9:51 AM

The other 4 of 10 are either lying or ignorant.

What has not been well publicized is that a left wing NGO brought scores of left wingers and Jew haters to the US for community organizer training.

This president is a racist Jew hater, plain and simple.

georgealbert on March 20, 2015 at 9:52 AM

We have never seen anything like this crowd in the White House. Never. And it gets worse daily.

TarheelBen on March 20, 2015 at 9:45 AM

This is the same crowd that runs academia.

Star Bird on March 20, 2015 at 9:53 AM

members of the president’s 2012 reelection campaign with access to State Department funds was busily at work

members were, not members was.

Townhall, please send Noah to a remedial English class. Publishing such grammatically challenged and obviously unedited posts damages your credibility.

rbj on March 20, 2015 at 9:55 AM

Dog Eater was simply trying to organize certain Israeli communities, maybe you bigots could try to understand that.

Bishop on March 20, 2015 at 9:57 AM

As a result of intemperance, petulance, and pique, the president has badly damaged America’s bilateral relationship with Israel.

I wonder where all the “blowback” theorists who caterwaul about their supposed non-interventionism are today. This would, after all, be example number #1 of why we shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of other nations, having both turned that nation against us and also failing to achieve the US’ policy objectives.

And yet there hasn’t been a single word from the “non-interventionists.” How odd. /

Doomberg on March 20, 2015 at 10:01 AM

And the Israelis would be correct in their assessment. To be fair to Obama though, it wasn’t an original idea. I believe the Clinton Administration/Dems sent teams to Israel in the 90s to do exactly the same thing.

iamsaved on March 20, 2015 at 10:06 AM

Like I said before, if only obama could be as tough on Iran as he is on the top, tea party an Israel.

garydt on March 20, 2015 at 10:07 AM

The Community Organizer in Chief has organized the pro Hamas contingency in US Government…that’s what he does.

d1carter on March 20, 2015 at 10:20 AM

Indeed. But what’s even more disturbing is the absence of any concerted effort from the collective Right to do anything about it.

Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 9:44 AM

They’re too busy being offended at the practices of Republican Presidential candidates.

Also making sure everyone passes every possible conservative purity test, because it’s way more important to oppose gay marriage, even though that battle has been lost, than to oppose Obama and his detrimental effects on the US economy, US government and international security.

The enemy is Obama, not each other.

talkingpoints on March 20, 2015 at 10:31 AM

zzz

corona79 on March 20, 2015 at 9:22 AM

Lefty bigot’s all butthurt.

Here’s two words for ya, “You lost!”

njrob on March 20, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Dems can thank themselves 0–and the Logan Act–for helping Obama to help Bibi get re-elected.

Christien on March 20, 2015 at 10:46 AM

If you wish to see the “battle plan” of a Progressive, just listen to what he accuses his opponent of doing.
Without Projection, the Left is left with nothing.

Another Drew on March 20, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Now all we have to do is get 60% of the American voters to recognize the Left meddling in AMERICAN politics.

Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 11:26 AM

What does Corona have against Israel doesn’t he know that the PALESTINIANS want Israel liquidated?

garydt on March 20, 2015 at 11:32 AM

Everything Barry O. touches turns to camel dung.

albill on March 20, 2015 at 11:33 AM

This is way too rich. Israelis complaining about meddling into their election? Israel has a powerful lobby in the US (AIPAC) to influence Congress and the president on its behalf. Many American Jews and I assume a sizable portion of Israelis believe the primary purpose of America’s existence should be to serve their ethnic and national interest. Talk about chutzpah.

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 11:42 AM

“As a result of intemperance, petulance, and pique, the president has badly damaged America’s bilateral relationship with Israel.”

In other words Obama accomplished his mission. His only failure was in keeping his efforts secret.

Yes. We. Can.

Mike from NC on March 20, 2015 at 11:57 AM

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 11:42 AM

You really think there’s a parallel there?

Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 11:57 AM

I wonder where all the “blowback” theorists who caterwaul about their supposed non-interventionism are today. This would, after all, be example number #1 of why we shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of other nations, having both turned that nation against us and also failing to achieve the US’ policy objectives.
And yet there hasn’t been a single word from the “non-interventionists.” How odd. /
Doomberg on March 20, 2015 at 10:01 AM

Here’s a word. The U.S. government shouldn’t attempt to inflence Israeli elections.

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 12:07 PM

You really think there’s a parallel there?
Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 11:57 AM

Yep. It’s wrong for a foreign country to attempt to influence the domestic and/or foreign policy of a foreign country. This an be done directly by lobbying or indirectly by influencing an election. Israelis deserve a country that belongs to them and no other people. We Americans deserve a country that belongs to us and no other people.

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 12:15 PM

Ha Ha Ha. Sh*t Midas strikes again. There was a lot of Netanyahu fatigue in Israel because of ongoing corruption issues in Likud and just the fact that he has been in charge for so long. If Obama could have toned it down with Iran for a little bit and not get directly involved with the oposition there might have been a unity government or an outright loss for Bibi but sh*t midas had to get show his reverse midas touch.

Pretty funny except for the whole nuclear holocaust that might happen when Iran gets the bomb. Just don’t forget that Israel has submarines with nuclear tipped ballistic missiles out there and who knows where all the missiles will be directed if Israel is nuked.

Shtetl G on March 20, 2015 at 12:23 PM

It stings, Hamas-lover.

Schadenfreude on March 20, 2015 at 12:29 PM

Yep. It’s wrong for a foreign country to attempt to influence the domestic and/or foreign policy of a foreign country.

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 12:15 PM

No, sorry, it is not, first of all.

Secondly, comparing American involvement into Israeli elections to Israeli involvement into lobbying Congress would be like comparing my boss involving himself in my marital affairs to me trying to win favor with him for a promotion.

The respective positions of each are not similar at all.

Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 12:30 PM

No, sorry, it is not, first of all.
Secondly, comparing American involvement into Israeli elections to Israeli involvement into lobbying Congress would be like comparing my boss involving himself in my marital affairs to me trying to win favor with him for a promotion.
The respective positions of each are not similar at all.
Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 12:30 PM

The Israeli Lobby has far more of an effect on Congress than Obama administration pathetic attempt to (wrongly) influence the Israeli election. The Israel Lobby doesn’t simply seek favor. They have real political power. Here is some anecdotal evidence is the GOP. For the GOP all issues are negotiable except Israel. On social issues, they are in full retreat on gay marriage. On immigration, they are seeking to work against the interest of its voting base by working to enact amnesty. But on Israel (a foreign) there is no such thing as compromise. They only time I can recall when the GOP actually defied and stood up to Obama is when they invited Netanyahu and sent the letter to Iran’s leaders all for Israel’s behalf. But when it comes to Obama’s illegal amnesty, they simply roll over. This demonstrates the effect of not just seeking favor but real political power.

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 12:49 PM

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 12:49 PM

I think you’re confusing power with influence.

Secondly, I can’t recall Israel’s attempts to influence American opinion or legislation whereby said affect would be working AGAINST American interests. The Obama administration’s attempts to influence Israel’s elections were neither in Israel’s interests OR America’s but in the interests of a third party which shares neither of their interests.

This is unprecedented as far as I can tell.

And that’s aside from the issue of the relative geo-political positions of either party here. Israel is to some extent dependent on the US for their survival while we are not dependent on Israel for the same.

Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 1:02 PM

I think you’re confusing power with influence.
Secondly, I can’t recall Israel’s attempts to influence American opinion or legislation whereby said affect would be working AGAINST American interests. The Obama administration’s attempts to influence Israel’s elections were neither in Israel’s interests OR America’s but in the interests of a third party which shares neither of their interests.
This is unprecedented as far as I can tell.
And that’s aside from the issue of the relative geo-political positions of either party here. Israel is to some extent dependent on the US for their survival while we are not dependent on Israel for the same.
Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 1:02 PM

The ability to have two political parties serve the interest of a foreign country isn’t just influence. It is power.

The Israel Lobby has done something far more insidious than work against American interest. It has created a political paradigm where America and Israeli have been conflated as one in the same. Remember, there is no daylight between America and Israel. Israelis, I believe, see themselves as a distinct group with specific group specific interest. But in the US, we are not to have our own separate interest. Israel is us and we are Israel. I would argue that a destabalized ME is in Israel interest. Unstable Arab states with ethnic strife and civil war pose no threat to Israel’s security. The US has worked to destabalized Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and attempted to destabalized Syria. This has resulted in more Islamic fanaticism including ISIS, for which US troops are now expected to fight. According to Netanyahu, Israel interest is to have Iran destroyed. This of course would lead to another destabalized Islamic country, which will result in another base Islamic fundamentalist for which the U.S. will be expected to fight.

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 1:26 PM

Townhall, please send Noah to a remedial English class. Publishing such grammatically challenged and obviously unedited posts damages your credibility.

rbj on March 20, 2015 at 9:55 AM

Sometimes the only thing worse than an “obviously unedited post” is a pedantic twit who nitpicks over form and ignores substance. Whether “was” or “were” is the requisite form, the message in that sentence came through. I may agree with you on the need for better editing, but I do not agree that the only salient point to be extracted from a given piece is an error in subject-verb agreement, or that the publication’s “credibility” rests on a faux pas that only a tight-assed grammatical purist is likely to detect.

ricoliv on March 20, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Last month, the Free Beacon reported on a private memo drafted in December by the nonprofit Ameinu, which outlined a plan for a coalition of groups to help increase Arab voter turnout in Israel.
It would be nice if they would do the same for Arab voter turnout in Saudi Arabia.

Akzed on March 20, 2015 at 9:51 AM

The other 4 of 10 are either lying or ignorant.

What has not been well publicized is that a left wing NGO brought scores of left wingers and Jew haters to the US for community organizer training.

This president is a racist Jew hater, plain and simple.

georgealbert on March 20, 2015 at 9:52 AM

This could be why Netanyahu made his last-minute speech to the Israeli voters to point out that the Islamic (not just “Arab” – look at their goals) voters were being heavily supported in getting to the polls.

AesopFan on March 20, 2015 at 2:26 PM

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 1:26 PM

OK, so give me an example of an Israeli interest that runs counter to ours. If, as you say, a destabilized Middle East is in Israel’s interest, how is that an example of something which is AGAINST ours?
Assume, please, that the destabilization is figured in the current political context in that region.

Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 2:53 PM

Here’s some analysis from John Podhoretz

So even those who are furious with Netanyahu should really take a breath and a close look and consider this point carefully: The Arab-vote business is a pretext. American presidents, this one especially, typically do not revisit special strategic relationships based on election-day maneuvers in a democracy, however unpleasant they might find them. In my view, Obama is hoping once again to use liberal Jewish disaffection in the United States with Netanyahu as a wedge to give him space to make a major policy pivot from the special relationship—one for which he has hungered since he came into office.

AesopFan on March 20, 2015 at 3:33 PM

More on the Israeli Arab situation

The Joint List is an alliance of far-left political parties and Palestinian nationalists that does not share Netanyahu’s Zionist ideals, to say the very least. Its leader, the charismatic socialist Ayman Odeh, has made it clear that his chief priority is to keep Netanyahu out of government. Moreover, a preliminary report from the Joint List itself finds that Israeli Arab turnout in this election stood at 67-68 percent, far above the 54 percent it reached in 2013. One can criticize Netanyahu for speaking carelessly about the implications of high Arab turnout. Perhaps he ought to have specified that not all Israeli Arabs support the Joint List. But was it wrong of Netanyahu to warn his voters that the Joint List was on track to surpass expectations?

AesopFan on March 20, 2015 at 3:37 PM

Another analysis of the Israeli election.
I have no knowledge of the author, or if he is correct, but he is interesting.

The starting point for understanding the results of the 2015 elections is Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005 under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon….
The religious Zionist camp came up with two different answers to this crisis in its relationship with the secular Israeli state. …The majority of the religious Zionist camp, however, spoke of continuing the partnership with the state but under different terms. They believed that it was time for the religious Zionists, who until then had treated the authorities of the secular Zionist state with great reverence and admiration, to begin demanding leadership positions in government. As one of the leaders of the religious Zionist camp described it to me during an interview shortly after the disengagement, they no longer wanted to be the guy who checks if the kosher rules are kept in the restaurant cabin of the Zionist train. They now wanted to be the driver of the train. They would no longer play a humble second fiddle in the secular state’s orchestra but would choose the music and conduct. That was the only sure way for them to prevent further disengagements.

The creation of Naftali Bennett’s HaBait HaYehudi (the Jewish Home) party in 2010 completed the settlers’ move to integrate into the mainstream of Israel’s political life. …. In the early stages of the 2015 campaign, many right-wing Israelis, and the vast majority of the religious Zionist camp, had grown tired of Netanyahu and were expected to support Bennett’s party. At the time, HaBait HaYehudi was expected to gain as many as 15 Knesset seats, but Bennett over the course of the campaign made several mistakes, and Netanyahu’s campaigning in the three days before the election was especially effective. Religious Zionists ended up voting for Likud in greater numbers than predicted, Bennett’s party received only eight seats.
An important turning point occurred on Saturday evening, three days before the election. Netanyahu held a mass rally in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Most who attended were not typical Likud voters but religious Zionists and settlers.

So it is incorrect to claim that the Israeli public moved to the right. It was not so much the Israeli public that experienced a last-minute change of heart. (Arguably, most Israelis have been consistently on the right ever since the failure of the Oslo Accords and the disengagement from Gaza.) Rather, it was the Likud party that shifted rightward, returning to its traditional positions.
Netanyahu’s open conflict with the Obama administration made that shift easier: There was no longer any reason to play moderate out of fear of a possible American response. The administration in Washington openly interfered in Israel’s elections to sabotage Netanyahu. And since their gloves were off, Netanyahu, who had nothing to lose, could afford to break openly to the right. Netanyahu made a correct last-minute calculation. He chose to focus, almost exclusively, on the Palestinian–Israeli conflict. At the end of the day, that remains the key issue on Israel’s agenda. This question, and not the price of housing or the Iranian nuclear bomb, is what defines the political identity of Israelis on either the left or the right. True, everyone wants cheaper housing, and everyone agrees that the ayatollah should not have the bomb. But these issues are not what determine one’s politics. The elections of 2015 made clear that the most important issue for the Israeli voters remain questions of peace and security. This issue is what separates liberals and conservatives, and to a large extent also Sephardi and Ashkenazi, and religious and secular voters.

AesopFan on March 20, 2015 at 3:47 PM

OK, so give me an example of an Israeli interest that runs counter to ours. If, as you say, a destabilized Middle East is in Israel’s interest, how is that an example of something which is AGAINST ours?
Assume, please, that the destabilization is figured in the current political context in that region.

Cleombrotus on March 20, 2015 at 2:53 PM

Benjamin Netanyahu has advocated that a war be waged against Iran. A war with Iran is not in the US’s interest. It will be costly both in terms of lives and dollars.

antifederalist on March 20, 2015 at 5:44 PM

Maybe the Jewish vote will finally figure out that the Democrats are not on their side and will, hopefully, start voting for the party that is on their side, the Republicans.

Theophile on March 21, 2015 at 6:56 AM