Is Obama an Enemy of Netanyahu's Israel? Are You?

Netanyahu makes a campaign promise he can keep: The next four years will be worse than the last. And they've already started.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, February 8, 2015.
Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, February 8, 2015.Credit: AFP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Ten weeks into the 2015 election trail, Benjamin Netanyahu has been careful to steer clear of making promises. But on Monday he made one campaign promise he can reasonably keep:

"In my estimation, the four years [to come] are going to be more difficult than the last four."

There it is, folks. Straight from the top: I've given you four years in which we have fought two wars, the more recent the most devastating in years; our economy is moving toward recession; the health care system is in the process of collapse; the educational system has been crippled and hijacked by politics and neglect; the government has stood steadfast against negotiating with anyone, for any reason; and we have initiated an unprecedented string of laws aimed directly at eroding democracy in Israel.

Netanyahu's obvious conclusion, regarding the next four years: I'm your man.

Taking advantage of a ceremony in which the prime minister installed the new chief of the IDF General Staff, Netanyahu laid out his foreboding vision of what we can expect, and, by extension, just whom Israeli voters should choose on March 17:

"We're going to need every tool [and] person, because in the Middle East which surrounds us, there is no mercy for weak people. Only the strong survive."

And there's the rest of it, folks. Aside from Muslims, who all want all the Jews dead, there are only two kinds of people:

1. The virile, unapologetic, clear-eyed people who want me to remain prime minister until 2019, and, for that matter, until 2023.

2. Losers.

Of late, Netanyahu's campaign has focused on the concept that no matter how they feel about this country, the weak, the lily-livered, the testosterone-challenged losers – that is, those at the center and left of the political spectrum - are Israel's enemies.

And that includes Barack Obama.

This week, boiling down the election to a common denominator low enough to take even his detractors by surprise, Netanyahu took to his Facebook page to post and endorse a Likud campaign video showing a nave and presumably humanist generic center/leftist help ISIS shock troops in their bid to conquer Jerusalem.

"It's us or them, Dayish [ISIS]-style," Netanyahu wrote on his page. "This time, we're choosing: The Likud led by Netanyahu, or a weak and surrenderist leftist government with Tzipi [Livni] and [Isaac] Bougie [Herzog]."

The theory is that Netanyahu, needing perhaps two or three additional Knesset seats to win re-election, has decided that he has nothing further to gain from centrists, and can only sway votes from the right and the extreme right.

That may also explain why the back-stretch campaign rhetoric touching on Obama has taken a sharp turn for the acrid: "U.S. President Barack Obama is mainstreaming anti-Semitism in America," wrote former Netanyahu advisor Caroline Glick over the weekend.

According to Glick, a nominee for a prominent Likud Knesset slot, which eventually went to another candidate, "The perception that Obama either does not oppose or embraces Islamic extremism is strengthened when coupled with his appalling attempts to ignore the fact of Islamic Jew-hatred and its genocidal nature and his moves to demonize Netanyahu for daring to oppose his policy toward Iran."

"Perhaps Obama is acting out of anti-Semitism," she concluded, or "perhaps he acts out of sympathy for Islamic fascism."

As the campaign enters its final month, Netanyahu has been working overtime to expand his enemies list. A primary populism-friendly soft target has long been Ashkenazi academics with leftist politics, and last week was no exception.

Netanyahu took aim at Israel's most prestigious prize, a local amalgam of the Nobel, the Oscars, and a knighthood, an award long and justly criticized for a lack of Mizrahi, women, and Arab recipients.

The prime minister fired judges from the panel charged with selecting the Israel Prize laureate for Literature, noting on his Facebook page that "over the years, more and more elements with extremist positions have been chosen for the panel, including anti-Zionist elements – for example, the likes of those who support refusal to serve in the IDF – and fewer authentic representatives of other broad sections of the people."

Netanyahu failed to mention that last year, the head of the panel of judges for the Israel Prize in Jewish Religious Literature was Professor Eliav Shochetman, whose legal opinions have been widely quoted as supporting IDF soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate settlements.

In what appeared to be an artfully choreographed sequence, Netanyahu acceded to the advice of his attorney general to rescind the firings. The result was a near-perfect Teflon play, in which Netanyahu received full yahoo credit for bashing leftists, while having to take no responsibility for, nor deal with negative consequences of, his actions.

Four more years, even worse this time around? They've already started.

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