A million dollars. A large sum for an ordinary person, small change for a billionaire. This million was contributed in the past year to an organization working for the election of Republican candidates for governor. It joins the million that was contributed in 2006 to another organization of a prominent activist in the same party, the five million contributed in 2008 and the half million contributed this year to other Republican organizations and candidates.
The well known benefactor, among the top 10 political donors - not all of them from the right wing - is businessman Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas. In the 2008 elections Adelson supported Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The organization that benefited most from his generosity is identified with the former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gringrich, who has not given up his dreams of the presidency. In his sights: President Barack Obama. A Republican majority in the House and the Senate could paralyze Obama's foreign and domestic policy initiatives. Victories in the gubernatorial elections will affect the balance of power in the various states in advance of 2012.
This is a natural part of the American game. What is less natural is that one of the president's greatest opponents is one of the Israeli prime minister's best friends. Benjamin Netanyahu is not responsible for the behavior of Adelson, a U.S. citizen, and cannot control his activity; but neither can he ruin the image of someone whose best friends are eager to bring about the president's downfall. Anyone who wants Netanyahu to succeed wants Obama to fail.
As the head of the Likud in the mid-1990s, the Netanyahu-Gringrich team created a counterweight to the [U.S. President Bill] Clinton-[Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin team. At the time the president's wife, who later became the secretary of state in Obama's administration, spoke of "a vast right-wing conspiracy." Not that Netanyahu was a partner to it, if there really was a conspiracy; but it doesn't take much to arouse the old suspicions in Hillary and other Democrats. One of the survivors of that period, Tom Donilon, who was Secretary of State Warren Christopher's chief of staff and later a senior official in the office of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, is now Obama's national security adviser.
During the president's speech in the United Nations Netanyahu was surprised to hear what Obama really thinks, when contrary to preliminary understandings he demanded a continuation of the settlement freeze.
In order not to defy Obama openly, Netanyahu declared his willingness to renew the freeze, but in a manner that presents a new condition - Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state - and breaches the consensual framework of the discussion of borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees. A confrontation between Netanyahu and Obama is therefore unavoidable.
Prime ministers in previous decades knew how to maneuver between the administration and Congress. Prior to elections there were also some who did not restrain themselves and came out in favor of the president who was seeking a second term. Netanyahu seems to be creating a precedent: He is the only one who is seen as hoping for the defeat of the president in the midterm elections, with the next elections already on the horizon. He clearly yearns for Republican domination of the House of Representatives, with John Boehner as speaker and Eric Cantor - the only Jew in his party - as majority leader.
Not all of Netanyahu's allies against Obama are true friends of Israel. The new Tea Party candidates will draw the Republicans into isolationism on issues of security, and certainly when it comes to financial support. The uprising against British rule in the North American colonies was based on the claim "no taxation without representation," another version of the financier demanding to be the decision maker.
A Republican majority, even if its stand on the question of Iran is totally belligerent, will not necessarily be thrilled with an Israel that wants money without taking into account the American opinion regarding the arrangements with the Palestinians and Syrians.
If these were bargaining tactics to achieve an improved outcome from a position of strength, we could live with them. But Netanyahu does not want a major and final compromise. He yearns for a Jewish and Republican country. This is not the feverish feeding of quarters he doesn't have into a slot machine in a Los Angeles casino - it's really playing with fire.
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