Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich’s attempts to portray herself as an alternative
candidate for prime minister suffered a severe blow on Sunday when presumptive
Republican candidate Mitt Romney canceled a meeting with her at the last
Romney became the third world figure to snub Yechimovich in just
over a month, following Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton. When Putin and Clinton violated diplomatic protocol by
skipping a meeting with the then-opposition leader, Labor MKs privately blamed
Yechimovich for lacking a diplomatic agenda and an international
But this time, even MKs not counted among Yechimovich’s closest
allies put all the blame on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who they said
intervened to persuade Romney to cancel his meeting with her.
officials noted recent reports about the close relationship between Romney
adviser Dan Senor and Netanyahu’s senior adviser, Ron Dermer. MK Isaac Herzog,
who was supposed to meet Romney with Yechimovich, noted that when Senor called
less than three hours before the meeting to cancel it, he was at the Prime
“Romney was purposely misled by political officials
who are worried that Shelly continues getting stronger,” Herzog said. “Someone
was interested in her not being given equal footing. We were willing to be
flexible with the meeting but got a firm no. We are sorry Governor Romney did
not get to hear from the only viable alternative to Netanyahu on the political
Herzog said that when Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz replaced
Yechimovich as opposition leader, he called Romney’s team to inform them that a
meeting was no longer required by diplomatic protocol, but they insisted on
keeping the meeting on the schedule.
Her associates said they were in
touch with Romney’s team on Sunday morning about such details as who would stand
where in the Yechimovich-Romney photo-op.
more and more fear in the Prime Minister’s Office,” Labor MK Daniel Ben-Simon
“Instead of exposing Israel’s opposition, he seeks to hide it. It’s
not an accident that three of her meetings were canceled.”
officials suggested that the meeting might have been canceled because
Yechimovich refused at the last minute to have Israeli Ambassador to Washington
Michael Oren take part in the meeting. One Labor official said Netanyahu did not
want her to meet Romney without “a babysitter present in the room.”
source in the Prime Minister’s Office denied intervening to cancel the
Asked why the Americans did not remove Yechimovich from the
itinerary when she ceased being opposition leader, an Israeli official involved
in planning Romney’s visit said he did not know and that the cancellation took
him by surprise.
A meeting between Romney and Mofaz at the capital’s King
David Hotel passed without incident, except one gaffe when Mofaz complimented US
President Barack Obama’s commitment to preventing the nuclearization of Iran.
Mofaz is seen as enamored of Obama, who joined a meeting between Mofaz and US
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in Washington last month.
to be ready for all options on Iran, but the time for military operations has
not yet come,” Mofaz told Romney. “This is a time to tighten the sanctions on
the Iranian regime and be ready for any development which we should handle in
The two men also spoke about Israeli politics,
regional issues, the need for Israel to mend ties with Turkey, and the
importance of returning to the negotiating table with the
MK Danny Danon (Likud), who frequently meets with
Republican politicians and pundits, called Romney a true friend of Israel, and
said his visit emphasizes his commitment to the future of Israel and its people.
He said Obama’s recent attempts to improve relations with Israel were “too
little, too late,” and would not lead voters to forget years of giving a cold
shoulder to the Jewish state.
“Obama took a stance in favor of the
Palestinians whenever possible and did not visit Israel during his tenure as
president, even though he visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” Danon
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Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.