In most democracies, and especially small ones, politics ends at the water’s edge. Whatever criticism the opposition might have about the government, especially the leader, it refrains from doing so purely for the benefit of a foreign audience. Not so for the Israeli opposition, headed by Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, who has not only bashed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the United States as a purely political move, but has done so in a New York Times op-ed.
“I strongly believe that Mr. Netanyahu’s planned speech to the Republican-controlled Congress next week–an invitation he accepted without consulting America’s Democratic president–is a major mistake,” Herzog wrote on Friday, complaining that Netanyahu had undermined bipartisan support for Israel in the U.S. Yet that claim itself is a partisan one, reflecting the Democrats’ version of events and flattering Democrats’ attempt to avoid responsibility for their own shifting policies.
Herzog and the Israeli left writ large are today a wholly owned subsidiary of the American left and its wealthy donors, many of whom are also Democratic Party benefactors. The same donors pump millions into efforts such as V15, through which former Obama campaign staffers are working to unseat Bibi, and the New Israel Fund, which in turn distributes cash to civil society organizations that not only oppose the policies of the Israeli government but defame it on the world stage.
The patronage of the liberal American gentry has proved a powerful temptation to Herzog, Tzipi Livni, and others, who feel more and more liberated to bash the Israeli government. The result is that the American left, and the Obama White House in particular, feel ever more justified in their hostile policies toward Israel. Herzog claims there is “no daylight” between him and Netanyahu on security issues–but that is difficult to support when Herzog’s rhetoric reinforces Obama’s abuses.
The substance of Herzog’s criticism of Netanyahu is also absurd. Were he to win the Israeli elections March 17, Herzog would soon discover that the rift between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government has nothing to do with Bibi. It has to do with Obama’s deliberate hostility to Israel’s core interests. Did Obama’s attitude change when Netanyahu called for a Palestinian state? when Netanyahu bowed to Obama’s wish for a settlement freeze? Of course not.
Instead of bashing Netanyahu for the benefit of an elite minority of Americans, and to score cheap political points back home, Herzog could have taken a different route, even if he did believe the speech was a bad idea. He could have offered support to the Prime Minister, while reiterating his view that Israel needed to present a fresh face to the world. He could have shown, by his actions, that he is ready to transcend his opposition role and behave like a world leader. He failed.