On Friday, White House spokesperson said that President Barack Obama would not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Washington, D.C. in March due to a policy of not meeting with foreign leaders prior to their election campaigns, “to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country.” However, that excuse proves empty against the historical record, as Bill Clinton met then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 1996.
The Times of Israel notes that Clinton’s meeting with Peres was aimed at shoring up support for the dovish leader, who had taken over when Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated in late 1995. Support for Peres had waned considerably in the months since, especially over the controversial Operation Grapes of Wrath, which had targeted Hezbollah in Lebanon. The “intended victim” of Clinton’s gesture, the Times notes, was also Netanyahu–who later edged Peres in a close result.
In addition to that glaring example of White House intervention in an Israeli election, there is also an example as recently as several days ago, when President Obama hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is in facing a tough re-election fight. Cameron, though a Conservative, touts his friendship with Obama, and has hired several former Obama advisers to assist him. In addition, in 2008, Obama sought to meet with foreign leaders to assist his presidential effort.
Furthermore, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spearheaded her own, independent diplomatic initiatives after her party took Congress in the 2006 midterm elections, famously visiting dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2007 in a statement of defiance against the George W. Bush administration. Pelosi was followed by a string of other politicians, almost all of whom were Democrats, who sought to repair relations with Syria as a protest against what they saw as Bush’s warlike approach.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak