Many people here view U.S. President Barack Obama's recent criticisms of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as premeditated and, not coincidentally, timed a week before Israeli elections. According to this view, Obama's purpose is to exact revenge on the prime minister for favoring Mitt Romney in last year's American elections.
This explanation is too simplistic and not likely very accurate. Obama wanted Netanyahu out of the Prime Minister's Office long before the U.S. elections. His meddling in Israeli politics began much earlier.
But the truly disturbing thing about Obama's remarks to his friend Jeffrey Goldberg are not Obama's views. After all, Obama is not particularly well liked by the Israeli public.
The more Obama meddles in Israeli politics, the more likely it will give Netanyahu a boost.
What is more disturbing is the high likelihood that people in Israel, those with political aspirations, or even candidates themselves, concocted and stirred this whole incident prior to its publication.
Obviously, politicians want to win elections. Mudslinging during a campaign is something we're used to. But to criticize and slander your opponents overseas, to an audience of foreign leaders and policymakers, out of a desire to scratch and claw your way to another half mandate, is unforgivable. It is a violation of the basic understanding that homegrown criticism should stay at home.
Goldberg's positions are well-known. He is clearly a leftist. He has frequently attacked the Israeli government in recent years, sometimes in his own name, sometimes in the name of senior White House officials who think the same way he does.
Last September, for instance, after Netanyahu's U.N. speech and diagram about the dangers of Iran's nuclear program, Goldberg tweeted: "Okay, it's official: Netanyahu has no idea what he's doing. He has just turned a serious issue into a joke."
Anyone who believes that collusion between Goldberg, Obama, and left-wing elements in Israel is nothing more than a feverish conspiracy theory dreamed up by the Likud, would do well to read Goldberg's own words on March 16, 2010.
"I think it's fair to say that Obama is not trying to destroy America's relations with Israel; he's trying to organize Tzipi Livni's campaign for prime minister, or at least for her inclusion in a broad-based centrist government. I'm not actually suggesting that the White House is directly meddling in internal Israeli politics, but it's clear to everyone — at the White House, at the State Department, at Goldblog — that no progress will be made on any front if Avigdor Lieberman's far-right party, Yisrael Beytenu, and Eli Yishai's fundamentalist Shas Party, remain in Netanyahu's surpassingly fragile coalition."
"So what is the goal?" Goldberg asks. "The goal is to force a rupture in the governing coalition that will make it necessary for Netanyahu to take into his government Livni's centrist Kadima Party (he has already tried to do this, but too much on his terms) and form a broad, 68-seat majority in Knesset that does not have to rely on gangsters, messianists and medievalists for votes."