Angered by Netanyahu’s invitation to address Congress, the White House is now quietly working to unsettle the prime minister before elections in Israel.
The White House, Secretary of State John Kerry, and assorted U.S. officials have repeatedly made clear that Washington will not intervene in Israeli politics and elections. And, indeed, under normal circumstances, non-intervention is the rule.
But what if Israel suddenly and blatantly intervened in America’s politics? Would an administration already fed up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and very much hoping for a new leader to come out of Israel’s March 17 elections — use such an intervention to try to tip what promises to be a close vote to a rival?
Welcome to regime change, Obama style. There are few opportunities to change the mullahcracy in Tehran. But Jerusalem may be another story. By accepting Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress — now widely seen as a real bungle, the prime minister has given the Obama administration an opening. And you can bet the White House is taking advantage to make it unmistakably clear that Bibi is bad for the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
The White House has already made clear there will no meeting with President Obama, assuming that Netanyahu sticks to his word and actually shows up in early March. The good news for Netanyahu is that the two won’t have another bad meeting. The not-so-good news is that the White House door will be closed to a sitting Israeli prime minister — that doesn’t happen often. While White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said that the reason is that we’re too close to an Israeli election, that’s a stretch. Trust me: If Obama and Bibi were buddies, they’d be hugging in the Oval Office. Just look at former President Bill Clinton’s efforts to sway the 1996 election in Shimon Peres’s favor, which included seeing him at the White House.
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