Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gone to war. Not against Iran. Not yet, at least. But his bellicose road to Tehran runs through Washington. A month and a half before the presidential election in the United States, Netanyahu has been picking a very public fight with the administration of President Barack Obama.
As it happens, Obama represents the Democratic Party, just like Bill Clinton, who was president during Netanyahu's first term of office. As it happens, Netanyahu's worldview is closer to that of the rival party. And as it happens, Netanyahu and the Republican Party's candidate for the presidency have mutual friends who are willing to dig deep into their pockets to get them elected or to keep them in power.
It's very simple and it's no great secret: Netanyahu wants to see Obama defeated on November 6. He wants Romney elected. It's possible that Netanyahu genuinely believes that Romney is good for Israel, that the new administration will be quick to attack Iran or will at least encourage Israel to do so. There is no logical reason for him to think this. Those Americans who support Romney hold even more isolationist views than do Obama voters; they are wary of another military entanglement and they balk at spending so much money on such operations, which, in turn, would cost the American economy dearly.
But even if Netanyahu can foresee the future and even if Romney would comply with orders coming from Jerusalem, the outcome Netanyahu wants would be catastrophic. Israel would be accused of meddling in domestic American politics, perhaps even of trying to overthrow the president. And just so that the prime minister can beat the drums of war. Acquiring that kind of reputation, which would never be erased, would exact a much more painful price from Israel than would even the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Israel's most important strategic asset is the solid rock of American solidarity. The security of the State of Israel depends to a critical extent on the support of the U.S. president, the executive branch of the administration, the Congress and public opinion. This support was once a given; thanks to the policies of the current Israeli government, however, it has become more fragile than ever before.
Obama's refusal to meet with Netanyahu, coupled with Defense Minister Ehud Barak's intimation that he is not party to the onslaught against Obama, must cool Netanyahu's passion and remind him that he swore an oath to the State of Israel, not to an American patron who wants Obama to be vanquished.
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