A poll by the Jerusalem Post reports a large majority of Israelis believe that the Obama administration is interfering with their elections in an effort to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The poll also shows strong support for Netanyahu’s desire to address the U.S. Congress but considerably less support for him actually delivering the address.
The poll, conducted by Panel Research, found that 62 percent of those asked believe the Obama administration is attempting to interfere in the Israeli Election. Thirty-one percent said they did not believe that, and 8 percent said they did not know.
A majority of respondents, 56%, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is correct in principle in his desire to address Congress on the Iranian nuclear threat, while 36% said he is not right, and 8% had no opinion.
Nevertheless, only 41% said that the prime minister should actually deliver the address, while 36% said he should not go to Washington at all, 17% said he should go, but speak only at the AIPAC policy conference, and 6% did not know. Sixty-two percent of respondents said Netanyahu should debate his challenger, the Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog. Twenty-seven percent said there should not be a debate and 11% did not know.
The gap between those who think it is appropriate for Netanyahu to deliver his address, and those who think he should actually do it, is explained by the L.A. Times as “fear of long-term damage to Israel’s most vital friendship.” As former Israeli ambassador to the United States Itamar Rabinovich put it, “This is the sort of thing that leaves scars. I fear that this sets the Prime Minister and the U.S. Administration on a collision course.”
Even the remarkably high percentage of Israelis who claim they don’t think Obama is interfering in their elections could be taken as a sign of submission to the administration, because he very obviously is—the U.S. State Department is funding Netanyahu opponents in Israel through third-party groups, and the money has been used to hire former Obama aides as consultants. The meddling couldn’t be much more blatant, so if 38 percent of Israelis are willing to say they don’t see it, they’re working hard to maintain their obliviousness.
The Times reports Netanyahu’s domestic political opponents denouncing his speech to the U.S. Congress as a “strategic” mistake and even calling for Israeli media to be prevented from delivering broadcasts of the speech. Netanyahu struck a conciliatory note, insisting that his address to Congress was not part of “a personal disagreement between President Obama and me.”
“I deeply appreciate all that he has done for Israel in many fields,” Netanyahu continued. “Equally, I know that the president appreciates my responsibility, my foremost responsibility, to protect and defend the security of Israel. I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the president, but because I must fulfill my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country.”