Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently criticized President Barack Obama for his perceived failure to stand by Israel in an effort to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. By doing so in the midst of election season, Netanyahu is forcing Obama’s hand in a way that will end up being detrimental to both Americans and Israelis.
Netanyahu took to the media to lambast the president for not setting “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear program, which he claimed was six months away from being able to develop a bomb. Netanyahu’s comments suggest that he is trying to force the Obama administration to commit to taking military action against Iran should it become necessary.
Obama and Netanyahu have had an icy relationship dating back to the president’s 2009 tour of the Middle East in which he skipped over a visit to Israel. Although Obama visited Israel in 2008 as a candidate, Netanyahu and many others among the Israeli community took this omission offensively.
In 2011, Obama affirmed his stance that Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders, which would require the country to cede parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Although the president’s statements were largely consistent with existing U.S. policy, Netanyahu attacked Obama’s suggestion, claiming that those borders would leave Israel “indefensible.”
Former Gov. Mitt Romney, early in the throes of his presidential campaign at the time, jumped in, accusing the president of “throwing Israel under the bus.” Netanyahu and Romney, coincidentally, worked side by side in the 1970’s at Boston Consulting Group and have since remained good friends. Another personal friend of Netanyahu is billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged millions of dollars to the Romney campaign.
The prime minister swears that he is not trying to influence the upcoming presidential election, though his actions certainly suggest otherwise. He recently appeared in a conservative political ad airing in Florida, a key swing state. Though the ad does not reference either Obama or Romney, it closes with the message, “The world needs American strength, not apologies.”
Netanyahu’s ultimate goal to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is certainly benevolent, but his actions have left some Israelis hesitant. They fear that the prime minister’s politicking could cause tension between the U.S. and Israel, while not accomplishing enough to stymie Iran’s power in the region.
The prime minister’s meddling in the upcoming election is dangerous on two levels. For starters, Netanyahu simply should not be manipulating the American populace in order to pursue his own agenda. More importantly, the U.S. is Israel’s greatest ally; by taking sides in this election, Netanyahu is turning support of Israel into a partisan issue. Should Obama get reelected, his support of Israel could waver in the wake of Netanyahu’s attacks on his administration.
President Obama has time and time again shown his full support for Israel. Each year he has been in office, he has requested $3 billion in military aid for Israel, which Congress has approved. This past July he pledged an extra $70 million to the Iron Dome rocket defense system across Southern Israel. Netanyahu need not worry about Obama’s support of Israel wavering – as long as he stops trying to make Obama a one-term president.