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Netanyahu votes Romney, Ehud Barak endorses Obama

All political pundits in Israel are touting the same line this weekend: Barak is splitting from Netanyahu. The defense minister opposed the prime minister’s tone and messages towards the American administration, doesn’t think that Israel must attack during “the political window of opportunity” (i.e. before the presidential elections), and has given up hope that Netanyahu will add him and his party members to the Likud list for the next Knesset.

Proxies to Barak also quoted his “frustration” over the lack of progress or interest Netanyahu has showed in the diplomatic process. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Barak was said to believe that the Palestinian issue – and not the Iranian bomb – is the real existential threat Israel is facing. No kidding. And Likud’s Yuval Steinitz has already started attacking Barak on behalf of the prime minister.

A couple of takeaways:

1. More than anything, it seems to me that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak have taken opposing sides in the presidential elections. Netanyahu is putting all his chips on the Republican party. He did all he could to help the candidacy of Mitt Romney – throwing a big welcome for him in Jerusalem and avoiding the customary public congratulations for the president, who on that very day approved the financing of another Iron Dome battery. It wouldn’t be such a wild guess to suggest Netanyahu is also behind the recent revelation over his outburst in the meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, at the same time, has an open channel with the administration, and has repeatedly aided the Democratic campaign by repeatedly praising the president for his commitment to Israel’s security. Quote:

I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.

What remains to be seen is which one of the Odd Couple made the smarter bet. To be sure, I don’t think that a Republican administration would be that different from what we got from the Democrats with regards to Israel/Palestine, but the result of the elections will influence the Israeli political system.

If Obama wins, Netanyahu will be even more dependent on his defense minister and on his Republican friends on the Hill. Expect many more Cantor hours for the Israeli prime minister in such a case. If Romney gets the presidency, Netanyahu may as well move into the White House (though Sheldon gets to pick his bedroom first).

2. There will be no Israeli attack on Iran.

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    1. Piotr Berman

      At leask Barak can win elections vicariously, through his endorsee.

      My opinion on Barak could improve if IDF under his leadership would stop harassing people in West Bank and Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
    2. The “split” reflects the situation in the US very well: there is no difference between US democrats and republicans, just as there is no difference between Israeli left en right. The illusion of choice is created to continue the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by confusing the public.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Barry Rosen

      Engelbert Luitsz, the last I remember, 3 times in the last 12 years Israel tried to end the conflict, but it was the Rejectionist Pals who said no.
      Why did the Pals say no, well all you have to do is go on the Pals racist media against Jews to understand why.
      Just google Palmediawatch

      Reply to Comment
    4. Barry, PMW is to the Palestinians what stormfront is to the Jews. You can find serious background on the ‘peace process’ if you are really interested. There are plenty of good books available on the subject.
      The current debates in the US make it clear that we shouldn’t have high hopes about a decent solution any time soon.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mitchell Cohen

      Neither Netanyahu, nor Barak are voting in the US elections (Netanyahu long ago gave up his US citizenship). Most Americans (including Jewish) are voting first and foremost for whichever candidate will let them keep their home, provide them with health care and make college for their kids affordable. Israel will be a distant last (if on the radar at all). So, who really cares who Netanyahu and Barak are pulling for.

      Also, wasn’t Barak forming his own party anyway – the “Independence” party?

      What is so new here?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bluegrass Picker of Afula

      My opinion of Ehud Barak would improve if he wore clothes that fit.

      He’s not fatter
      (or poorer) than Arik got, and Arik spent the money.

      Noam, could you give Ehud a ride up here to Afula? We have really a lot of Russian tailor shops up here.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Alon Levy

      (If this is a duplicate, apologies – I’m having spamfilter trouble.) Mitchell, re Independence: yes, but Barak is incredibly unpopular, and in the polls Independence fluctuates between two seats and falling below the 2% threshold.

      So there were rumors that Barak was going to try to get into the Likud list. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the Israeli primary system, but in both Likud and Labor, the party can reserve some spots for party leaders and power brokers – e.g. in ’99, Labor’s second place was reserved for Peres. Bibi controls the process, so he could if he wanted guarantee Barak a seat. So what this development means is that Barak has given up on the hope of running with Likud.

      So one of two things is happening. One, maybe Barak thinks that Independence will get more than 2% of the vote, which it might, and that the left and right blocs will be deadlocked enough that he can play kingmaker and be either Shelly or Bibi’s defense minister. Two, maybe he’s just given up the hope of remaining in the Israeli government and is acting like a lame duck.

      Reply to Comment
    8. The two of themCraig

      Neither of these guys should be endorsing anyone here in the states ! Many of us find it offensive as we believe most Israeli’s would feel the same should our government representatives take sides in Israel’s domestic politics. To once again see Bibi trying to undermine Obama so publicly is offensive. He comes here hat in hand demanding we take military action against Iran for wanting the very same protection that israel’s own nuclear weapons provide them. As Iran is a sovereign nation , who are we or anyone to make a decision to deny the rights enjoyed by Israel to Iran? Think the citizens walking the streets of Tehran are not cognizant of the warheads pointed at them from Tel Aviv ?
      He needs to shut up and go back home to whine.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Robert Stendel

      Obama shows he is not a puppet. Furthermore, a LAME DUCK WAR is awful for Romney and every USA citizen. The WAR WILL NEVER END.
      Red lines are not convincing for someone who must satisfy Allah. Negotiation is a better path. Obama [or Romney] across from the Ayatollah Khamenei might work (with Barak or Bibi having some skin in the game). Khamenei might be sane and honest. His word and details in an agreement will draw a red line of sorts

      Reply to Comment
    10. Israeli officials have been placed in a bind. They are terrified of what could happen if Obama is re-elected and are trying to make the best of a poisonous situation. Anyone who doesn’t understand that Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu have coordinated their statements understands neither Israeli politics nor the relationship between these two men.

      No one said Obama’s administration has denied aid to Israel (the funds come from Congress, where bipartisan support for Israel still reigns, thank G-d). The relationship between Israeli and US Intelligence and military establishments is so well entrenched, there is little Obama can do about it—although, if G-d forbid, he wins and has the “flexibility” he wants, who knows what he will do.

      No one denies that relations between Obama and Jerusalem are the worst we’ve had, over the four-year period, probably since Jimmy Carter, although the Bush-Baker years were nothing to celebrate either.

      Reply to Comment