Only One Third Party Candidate Has a Chance to Win in November: Netanyahu

Let's say you're Benjamin Netanyahu. You're the only incumbent in the room, and you don't even have to run. Or do you?

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by Trump (L) and Clinton (R).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by Trump (L) and Clinton (R).Credit: AFP / Joe Raedle ; Marc Israel Sellem ; AP / Andrew Harnik

Let's say that you're Benjamin Netanyahu. You need to pick just the right place to launch a campaign for re-election. But there's a problem: You have to make as big a splash as possible – but you can't really call it a campaign at all, just yet, because you haven't called for new elections, just yet.

The answer, of course: New York.

To gain the home field advantage, begin with a speech at the United Nations. Your base can't get enough of that stuff. That, however is just the beginning of a political masterstroke.

First, you break long precedent by agreeing to answer Israeli reporters' questions in extended one-on-one interviews. You use the airtime to dog-whistle support for Elor Azaria, the IDF medic under court martial for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in Hebron. By backing Azaria, Israel's reluctant Person of the Year, your signal to young hard right voters, even, or especially Kahanists, is clear:

I am your knight and your voice, your crusader and, in battle in faraway tongues and languages, the sole guardian of your honor.  

You do this is a manner guaranteed to drive the news cycle, with you at the center. You compare your warm backing for  the Azaria family to support which Israeli leaders traditionally provide for the loved ones of soldiers fallen in combat.

Now that you have the public's attention – you can obliquely sort-of apologize for the obscene comparison days from now - it's time for you to arrange the equivalent of an enormous post-convention bump, without the bother of holding a convention.

Simply leverage the UN visit into the high profile support of two people who don't have a choice in the matter:

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

How do you do it? Simple genius. You schedule meetings with both of them. He can't say yes fast enough. She can't say no. [Subtext: You've learned from past mistakes, and now you're being balanced, statesmanlike, above the fray.]  

Only

What you really want is to help yourself right now by helping Trump (if only because you owe it to Sheldon Adelson and the Republican Party) while also hurting Hillary (if only for the same reason). This is how you do it:

1. Schedule the meetings so that everyone in Israel sees only your bro-time with Trump, the jolly smiles, the coordinated outfits, the regal surroundings, the sense that Trump is already elected, already a world leader.

Only the photos of you and Trump will take center stage. The news outlets who, much, much later, receive a picture of you and Hillary, will get a photo which is oddly off-kilter, perfunctory, lit as though Hillary were photoshopped in.

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump Tower, September 25, 2016.
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump Tower, September 25, 2016.Credit: GPO

2. Let the Trump campaign do your politicking and demagoguery for you, saying things way to the right of anything you want to be helddirectly accountable for. Also, way to the right of anything an American administration had stood for.

Two states? Support for Palestinian independence? Opposition to settlements? Non-recognition of Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem after 1967? All so Reagan – Bush.

3. Result: You, Benjamin Netanyahu, have become a third party of your own, jerking the lead rivals to your will. And you're the third party candidate who, no matter who comes out ahead in November, stands to win.

Back home, where even the supposedly leftist Channel 10 depends on your favor so as not to be put out of business, Israel's evening news report simply fawns:

Channel 10 Anchor Tamar Ish-Shalom: Gil, you interviewed Trump's advisor on Israel, who promises 'Trump will show Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] a tough hand."

Correspondent Gil Tamari: "Yes, Tamar. We're now at the end of the meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, and in contrast to the chilly meeting with President Obama, this meeting was warmhearted, warm.

"Donald Trump is hosting the prime minister in his amazing penthouse. The two meet for more than an hour and a half. Donald Trump is simply enchanted by Netanyahu.

"At the [meeting's] conclusion, Trump announces that as president, he will move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. I will demand that the Palestinians condemn terrorism and recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for negotiations "

Noting that "The two groomsmen of this meeting were none other than [Israeli] Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer and his friend, Donald Trump's Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, Tamari sums up the evening in one sentence:

"You can say that Trump is love – in love with Netanyahu."

There you are. You've announced your candidacy in the best way possible. You're the only incumbent in the room, and you don't even have to run.

Or do you?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to go for new elections, but the most useful could be something you might have been hinting at in those weekend interviews you sent back home.

December 25 may be Christmas in New York, but back home it promises to be a form of Shvartz Shabbes – the deadline set by Israel's High Court for the government to demolish illegally built homes at the West Bank settlement of Amona.

You've promised a new and creative solution to the impasse. What could be newer and more creative that calling new elections? When you're asked why you're not complying with the court's explicit order to the government, just plead the truth: "What Government?"

Win or lose, Trump will love you for it.

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