Trump, Putin should stop meddling in Israeli elections - analysis

This does not mean Netanyahu does not have the right to play up his diplomatic prowess as part of his election campaign. He can and he should.

By
September 4, 2019 09:21
3 minute read.
US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington in March.

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington in March.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Imagine what would happen if an Israeli leader flew to Washington just weeks before a US presidential election and attended a campaign speech for one of the candidates. That would not only be wrong, it would cause Israel immense damage. That is why, by the way, it has never happened and probably never will.

But this is exactly what some world leaders are considering – and already planning – to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get reelected on September 17. This is wrong, undemocratic, and should be stopped. No country should tolerate election interference, including Israel.

This does not mean Netanyahu does not have the right to play up his diplomatic prowess as part of his election campaign. He can and he should. When looking at the global landscape today, Netanyahu is, undoubtedly, one of the world’s most influential leaders.

But Israel does not belong to him, and Israel’s relations with other nations is not only because he is at the helm. Israel is a powerful country with a strong military, economy and society, and other countries want Israel’s hi-tech, military experience and valuable intelligence regardless of who leads it. They want to partner with Israel because of what Israel can do, not just because of who stands at the head of its government.

Netanyahu was scheduled to fly next week to New Delhi for one day to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But why was he even planning to go there? What was so important that on the eve of the September 17 election he needed to meet with Modi? It couldn’t wait a few weeks? Even Indian officials knew that it was a campaign stop. Thankfully, on Tuesday, both sides came to their senses and canceled the visit.

Then there is President Donald Trump. For weeks there have been rumors that Netanyahu is trying to get the White House to announce some kind of gesture for Israel. Ahead of the April 9 election, Trump signed a presidential decree recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Most recent reports have speculated that Trump will announce a special defense pact with Israel that might relate to Iran. Another possibility is that he will say something about settlements.

There is also talk of a possible visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the days leading up to the vote.

Whatever the American gesture, it currently seems to be the focus of Israel’s ties with the United States. Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer is focused on delivering this for his boss; with the election less than two weeks away, nothing else seems to really matter.

Whatever might be in the works though does not have to happen by September 17. Had the declaration on the Golan Heights come out on April 15 instead of April 9, would that have made a difference for Israel and its standing in the world?

The same is true now. If there is a defense pact, let it come when it won’t be tainted by politics and partisanship. If there is going to be an announcement about settlements, let that too be made when it doesn’t seem like it is being done to help one of the candidates running in the election.

Foreign governments are not supposed to interfere in one another’s elections. It taints the ties between those countries, and colors them as political. When it comes to Israel and the US, for example, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have always said the ties are based on similar values, principles and beliefs. An overt gesture by Trump that once again interferes with an election will shatter that image, and further isolate Israel on one side (Republican) of the American political map.

And finally, here is perhaps the most important point: Israel is far more than one single person.

For more than 71 years, this country has achieved amazing accomplishments. Part of the credit belongs to the nation’s leaders, but first and foremost it belongs to the people who are innovative, resilient, courageous and daring.

Countries want ties with Israel because of the Israeli people and what they are capable of achieving. That is why whatever is on the table now can wait until after the election.


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