There’s nothing like a ringing endorsement from the right celebrity to give a politician a boost. Someone famous and beloved, whom everyone admires and can relate to: a real man of the people. That’s an endorsement you want to showcase.
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Today, we’ve learned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election campaign has gotten the backing of someone who is really going to show the Israeli people - in an election year characterized by cries for social justice - that he can relate to the common man.
Just kidding. Netanyahu’s stamp of approval of the day comes from Donald Trump.
The Israeli voting public and the world now knows for sure that the self-promoting billionaire is a fan of Netanyahu. In a newly-released video, Trump tells Israel that he thinks Bibi is a “terrific guy” in a way that has us picturing the two sipping martinis and puffing on cigars together.
The video has Trump declaring:
“A strong prime minister is a strong Israel and you in Israel have a great prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu - there’s nobody like him. He’s a winner, he’s highly respected, he’s highly thought of by all. And people really do have great great respect for what’s happened in Israel. So vote for Benjamin: terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel."
So, apparently, unlike the contestants on Trump’s reality series “The Apprentice,” the real estate mogul and self-promotion genius doesn’t think Bibi should hear the words “You’re fired.”
As if we really thought a Republican capitalist like Trump was going to get behind Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich.
The video was uploaded to YouTube by a young British public relations man and political consultant by the name of Jonny Daniels. a private initiative, and not as part of the Likud Beitenu campaign. In a phone call, Daniels told me how the video was a “private initiative” and was not vetted or approved by the Likud-Beiteinu campaign.
“I am a big fan and supporter of Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Daniels said. “With the constant attacks coming from the ultra-left-wing in Israel, I think it’s very important that people understand that the American people are with us.”
He said that he had approached Donald Trump, and together, they agreed that “a video showing support for Mr. Netanyahu and for Israel would be a good idea....This is just a clear message from a concerned American citizen.”
It seems fortuitous that the video was released on a day when U.S. and Israeli pundits were abuzz over the anonymously sourced column by Beltway journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in which he describes Netanyahu being viewed in far less flattering terms by President Obama.
Goldberg wrote that “Obama (has) said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation. And if Israel, a small state in an inhospitable region, becomes more of a pariah -- one that alienates even the affections of the U.S., its last steadfast friend -- it won’t survive. Iran poses a short-term threat to Israel’s survival; Israel’s own behavior poses a long-term one. The dysfunctional relationship between Netanyahu and Obama is poised to enter a new phase.”
I asked Daniels as to whether he timed the video release in the wake of the Goldberg report of Obama’s disdain for our prime minister as some kind of consolation prize. Perhaps he thought learning that Donald Trump thinks that Bibi is a good guy would somehow make Israelis feel better?
His answer: “No comment.” But then, after a pause, he added that “Obama, through certain people today, has pushed in a certain direction which is not surprising.”
Daniels appears to be something of an international political gadfly – his website says he works out of Israel, Great Britain, and the United States. When asked about his background, Daniels told me “I’ve worked with a few different politicians from Likud and from Labor and I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats.”
In July, he was described by the Jerusalem Post as “an Israeli Republican political consultant” and in this article in an American Jewish newspaper from October, he said he was “acting as an adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign on issues involving Israel” and that he was “asked to run for a seat in the Knesset” and that he had worked in the office of Knesset member Danny Danon, as well as for Glenn Beck and Herman Cain during the latter’s failed attempt to secure the Republican nomination for president.
His website says he served as “a strategic advisor to the IDF spokesperson unit, specializing on new media and was head hunted for this role” and “he then went onto work with the Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Government, Danny Danon, were he became his Senior Advisor and was responsible for successfully building his 'brand' outside of Israel.”
At the end of our short phone conversation, I asked him whether he feared the Trump endorsement might not boomerang - whether, in a campaign characterized by discussions of painful budget cuts and a strained middle class. Might a statement of support by a wealthy man like Donald Trump not backfire and work against Netanyahu?
Daniels responded: “Well, Obama’s not that poor, either.”