Returning the favor to Bibi

Alan Berger thinks President Obama should pay Israel a visit just ahead of the nation’s January 22 elections:

A politician is expected to reward friends and punish whoever dares to cross him. So Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s barely veiled backing for Mitt Romney not only bent the unwritten rule requiring Israeli leaders to preserve a posture of immaculate neutrality in US elections; it meant that Obama owes the Israeli pol some sort of payback.

If Obama’s past performances can be taken as a reliable guide, there is little chance he would retaliate against Netanyahu by meddling in the Israeli election scheduled for Jan. 22. But he should. Not for the petty motive of settling scores with Netanyahu, but to safeguard the true long-term interests of Israelis, Americans, and all the peoples of the Middle East…

Considering that a new party to the right of Netanyahu’s Likud is polling 12 to 14 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, that Likud’s own list is now dominated by radicals impatient with democratic restraint, and that Israel’s centrist and left-leaning parties seem to be in steep decline, an Obama speech could hardly be expected to enable someone other than Netanyahu to form the next government. In Israel’s parliamentary system, however, the shape and disposition of a government is often determined in the bargaining, balancing, and bribing with ministerial portfolios that go under the rubric of forming a coalition. And the right sort of speech from Obama could have a crucial effect on the post-election process of deal-making.

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