|Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski|
How (not) to mix Israel and US politics
By MICHAEL WIDLANSKI
Politicians in Chicago and Jerusalem do not always play by the same set of rules, but the remarks of Emanuel, Olmert raise several questions.
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel attacked Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu yesterday for choosing the “wrong candidate” in the US presidential
election, by supposedly opposing Barack Obama.
“He said that Prime
Minister Netanyahu had bet on this election, this American election, and had
lost,” asserted Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who was a moderator
and interviewer at the Saban Forum where Emanuel spoke.
were supported in public and private by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who
called Netanyahu’s treatment of Obama “a slap in the face.” Olmert referred
specifically to the US election and also to the Israeli government’s decision
this week approving new Israeli settlements – a decision that followed PLO
leader Mahmoud Abbas’ unilateral push for Palestinian statehood at the UN, which
Israel sees as a fundamental breach of Israel- PLO treaties.
charged that Netanyahu had gotten involved in an unseemly manner in the American
political process, both directly and also through the actions of millionaire
Sheldon Adelson, who supports Netanyahu and some Republicans.
our business” to get involved in American politics, said Olmert, the first
Israeli prime minister convicted for a criminal offense. “I was very upset not
when Mitt Romney came to the State of Israel,” said Olmert referring to
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“But it’s the whole
set-up,” Olmert explained. “It’s about this guy who decided – after he bought
the whole political system in Israel – who thought he can [sic] buy the whole
political system in America with a hundred million dollars.”
NOW MAYOR of
Chicago, Emanuel is still seen as a close advisor of President Obama, and it is
unlikely he would have made such critical remarks of Netanyahu in a public forum
without getting some approval from the White House.
Chicago and Jerusalem do not always play by the same set of rules, but the
remarks of Emanuel and Olmert raise several questions:
• Did Netanyahu actually
oppose Obama’s re-election and support the candidacy of Republican Mitt Romney?
• Do Israeli politicians take a more active role in US politics than American
politicians take in Israeli politics?
• Do Israeli politicians control all the
activities of their US donors? The answer to these questions appears to be a
strong ‘no.’ Netanyahu did not make campaign appearances for Romney, nor did he
raise money for him. Netanyahu said he was not backing either candidate in the
US elections. Indeed, a Google search reveals not a single Netanyahu quote
indicating preference for Romney.
MEANWHILE, BOTH Democrat and Republican
presidents have played a strong role in Israeli politics, through policy steps,
pronouncements and through personnel.
President George H.W. Bush and his
secretary of state, James Baker, reneged on a pledge for loan guarantees to
Israel in 1991-92 for the absorption of a massive wave of Soviet Jewish
immigrants, undercutting Yitzhak Shamir and clearly s`upporting Yitzhak
President Bill Clinton pulled back on a pledge to release Jonathan
Pollard as part of the talks at Wye River in 1998, undercutting Netanyahu, while
Clinton’s top pollsters – James Carville and Stanley Greenberg – went to work
for Labor Party challenger Ehud Barak in 1999-2000.
This recalls how in
the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration sent the CIA into Central America and
Iran to undermine regimes it disliked. In the 1990s Clinton sent James Carville.
In 2012, someone sent Rahm Emanuel.
Why is no one concerned about the
interference in Israeli politics? Beyond the double standards some US
politicians employ for Israeli activities in the US versus US actions in Israel,
there is a problem regarding the neocolonialist view of US officials and their
Jewish advisors who feel that Israel ought to be governed by the Saban Forum.
Apparently some failed Israeli politicians also agree.
The writer, a PhD,
is an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for
Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and