Mitt Romney and Binyamin Netanyahu may be legendarily - even unprecedentedly, according to the New York Times - good friends. But it seems like just as GOP leaders have found their Congressional caucus somewhat...hard to control, Netanyahu also cannot count on his fellow Likudniks in the Knesset to roll out the red carpet for his visiting friend.
Certainly, there are those in the Big K who would be more than happy to score a Jerusalem photo-op with the Republican candidate. At the top of the list, National Zoo would probably place MK Danny Danon, who we may or may not have jokingly suggested should nominate himself as a potential candidate for GOP chairmanship.
But not all of the Knesset seems to be quite as hospitable.
Israel''s Foreign Ministry, I''ve heard, has had a hand in planning the Republican candidate''s brief but highly symbolic visit to the Promised Land. Romney''s visit is meant to clearly highlight the dichotomy between the former Massachusetts governor, who has visited Israel three times already, and Barack Obama, who made one trip to Israel during his brief career in the US Senate.
Veteran Israel parliamentarians understand a thing or two about political photo-ops. Wary of being seen as taking a political stand in American politics, Knesset officials deliberated whether or not it would be a good idea to include the iconic Jerusalem building on Romney''s itinerary.
Netanyahu''s coalition may control the Knesset, but it doesn''t seem to have done his BFF much good. Top guns at the Knesset decided that there will be no official visit by Romney to the Knesset, a decision relayed back to the Foreign Ministry. Besides, with new factions springing up and splitting off faster than they can name themselves, the last thing that the building needs is an additional candidate beyond the 120 who already work there.
The Knesset internal chaos could even be read into the itinerary distributed for press by Romney''s team.
“Governor Romney will meet with U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, the leader of the opposition party, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad,” reads the itinerary. With Kadima''s in-again, out-again coalition run, the "leader" of the "opposition party" was apparently too fluid a term for the Romney campaign to specify. As a former Knesset reporter, I couldn''t help but giggle at that one. Whoever the leader of the opposition party will be at the time (99% chance that it will still be Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz), the meeting is not scheduled to be held in the Knesset.
Romney will also try to raise some money at at least one fundraising event in Jerusalem, an ironic twist on dozens of MKs'' quick dashes to America to hold similar fundraising dinners on this side of the Atlantic. That dinner, which carries a $50,000 per couple price tag, may attract some major figures. An ABC news report claimed today that Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson may attend the event.
In addition to the post-Tisha B''Av fundraiser, the candidate is expected to pay a quick visit to the Western Wall.
-Rebecca Anna Stoil