The Republican win in the fight for the U.S. Senate seat of the late Edward Kennedy represents a major victory for opponents of U.S. President Barack Obama and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
For nine months, Netanyahu held his ground against pressure by Obama, who enjoys a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. From now on, Obama will be much more dependent on support from his Republican adversaries, who are supporters and friends of Netanyahu.
Netanyau keeps his moves in synch with political events in the United States like no other Israeli politician. He dragged his feet on negotiating with the Obama administration over a construction freeze in the settlements and then decided on a 10-month freeze, ending in September, very close to Congressional elections in which the Democrats are expected to lose seats. Netanyahu figures that he needs to hold on and not to buckle under to pressure until his right-wing supporters take back Capitol Hill and gain the ability to rein in the political hyperactivity of the White House.
The results of the elections in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the union, is already making things difficult for Obama. Those who support the peace process see Obama as having missed a historic opportunity by wasting his first year in office on empty diplomatic moves, unable even to jump-start talks between Israel and the Palestinians. From now on it will be even more difficult: Congressional support is essential for every diplomatic move and in the current political atmosphere in the United States - polarization and serious conflict between the two parties - Netanyahu can depend on Republican support to thwart any attempts to pressure Israel.
If Obama's popularity continues to plummet and the Republicans retake at least one of the houses of Congress in November then Netanyahu and his partners on the right can breathe easy and continue to expand the West Bank settlements and the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem.
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