Obama and Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US president Barack Obama inadvertently helped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's re-election by interfering in the March 17 race, Democratic and Republican strategists who advised Israeli parties said in recent days.
The Obama administration has been increasingly critical of Netanyahu since he won the election. The statements by the strategists indicated that the president only has himself to blame.
"It’s quite possible, even reasonable, that the White House had no strategy for the Israeli elections, but if its goal was to hurt — or least not help — Netanyahu, then it erred," said Mark Mellman, a strategist for Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid who worked for Yesh Atid during the campaign. "Raising the stakes on his congressional address through a series of cold shoulders only enhanced Netanyahu’s standing with his constituency."
Mellman wrote on the Washington website The Hill that Likud supporters were "delighted to see [Netanyahu] stand up to President Obama, and the tougher it got for him, the more that 23 percent cheered — and moved into his corner."
In another report on The Hill, Republican strategist John McLaughlin, who worked for the Likud campaign, said Obama's role during the Israeli election was larger than reported in the US. McLaughlin noted that the anti-Netanyahu organization V15 was guided by former Obama political operative Jeremy Bird.
"What was not well reported in the American media is that President Obama and his allies were playing in the election to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu," McLaughlin told AM 970 in New York in an interview highlighted on The Hill. "There was money moving that included taxpayer U.S. dollars, through non-profit organizations. And there were various liberal groups in the United States that were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu."
McLaughlin also cited an effort "to organize the [Israeli] Arabs into one party
and teach them about voter turnout."
"The State Department people in the end of January, early February, expedited visas for [Israeli] Arab leaders to come to the United States to learn how to vote," McLaughlin said. "There were people in the United States that were organizing them to vote in one party so they would help the left-of-center candidate, Herzog, that the Obama administration favored."
McLaughlin said Netanyahu gained politically after delivering his speech to Congress.
Obama's critics in Washington have accused him of taking revenge against Netanyahu for the speech to Congress by criticizing him publicly in recent days.