Saturday August 23, 2014
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23.08.2014
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Netanyahu aides: Obama meddling in Israeli elections
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Dan Margalit

Obama's timing no coincidence

The Jewish-American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg reported on Tuesday that U.S. President Barack Obama has described Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies as "Apocalypse Now," or at least as leading to a collapse in the foreseeable future.

Obama was responding to the Israeli government's decision to build in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim. The American president claimed that Netanyahu is not interested in compromise with the Palestinians and that Israel could end up losing the support of its friends in the world, including the U.S.

Hours went by and the White House did not refute Goldberg's article. Obama has joined Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Yuval Diskin in providing verbal artillery for Israel's opposition parties. The timing was no coincidence, just a week before the Knesset election.

The polls that came out on Tuesday night were conducted before Goldberg's article was published. In the Dahaf Institute poll, conducted by Dr. Mina Tzemach for Channel 2, Likud-Beytenu received 33 Knesset seats. Habayit Hayehudi fell to 12 seats, but the far-right Strong Israel Party passed the electoral threshold to get two seats, keeping the right-wing bloc at 64 seats. But this distribution of seats would be a burden for Netanyahu, as the prime minister does not want to include Strong Israel (led by Professor Aryeh Eldad and Dr. Michael Ben-Ari) in his coalition.

Meanwhile, the Center-Left bloc has not grown. All voting decisions are being made within the conventional bubbles.

The effect of the verbal bomb attributed to Obama (it is unclear whether Obama approved Goldberg's article, why the president has not responded, or if there are more such articles on the way) will be examined by internal party polls over the final week of the election campaign.

On Tuesday night, analysts were unable to confidently assess what influence Obama's statements would have on the average Israeli voter pondering whether to support Likud-Beytenu or one of the Center-Left parties. Some analysts said that the U.S. intervention in the Israeli election would anger the public and move voters to the Right. There were other analysts who said with equal authority that the opposite was true and that moderate voters would be alarmed by Obama's words and move from Likud-Beytenu toward Shelly Yachimovich, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid.

There is no reliable answer to this question. There is national consensus on only one thing. Everyone wants it to be next Wednesday already, with the election behind us.

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