US President Barack Obama’s administration’s recent pressure on Israel is designed to force Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to add Kadima to his coalition instead of Israel Beiteinu or Shas, influential American columnist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in a story published on Tuesday.
In a column in The Atlantic magazine titled “What Obama is Actually Trying to Do in Israel,” Goldberg, who is close to Obama, said the president wanted to cause a rupture in Netanyahu’s coalition that would necessitate bringing in Kadima. He said he spoke about the matter with officials in the White House.
“I’ve been on the phone with many of the usual suspects (White House and otherwise), and I think it’s fair to say that Obama is not trying to destroy America’s relations with Israel; he’s trying to organize Tzipi Livni’s campaign for prime minister, or at least for her inclusion in a broad-based centrist government,” Goldberg wrote.
“I’m not actually suggesting that the White House is directly meddling in internal Israeli politics, but it’s clear to everyone – at the White House, at the State Department, at Goldblog – that no progress will be made on any front if Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right party, Israel Beiteinu, and Eli Yishai’s fundamentalist Shas Party, remain in Netanyahu’s surpassingly fragile coalition.”
Livni’s spokesman declined to comment about the column, but Kadima MK Shlomo Molla, who is her close ally, warned Obama and his advisers against interfering in Israeli politics.
“We don’t need Obama’s help,” Molla said. “But we agree that the current coalition is bad for Israel and for US-Israel relations and that if Livni was working with Obama, there would be much more trust from the White House.”
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) responded by complaining about Livni’s behavior during the current crisis with the US.
At a Kadima rally in the North on Tuesday night, Livni accused Netanyahu of “weakening Jerusalem” by “acting stupidly.”
“Had the opposition acted in a statesmanlike manner, Israel would not be under such international pressure,” Elkin said. “Israel is a democracy, and only its citizens will decide what our coalition will look like.”
Representatives of the parties in Netanyahu’s coalition took offense to Goldberg’s characterization of them as “gangsters (Israel Beiteinu), messianists (Habayit Hayehudi) and medievalists (Shas and United Torah Judaism).”
Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem said Obama should “check how many gangsters he has in his own government.”
He called the prospect of Kadima replacing Israel Beiteinu in the coalition “wishful thinking on the part of the reporter.”
“With all his problems, Obama should be too busy to run our government,” Rotem said.
A Shas official noted Goldberg’s Jewish name and said that “even in Medieval times, Jews were their own worst enemies.”