On one level, tomorrow’s election in Israel could change everything for Israel. Israelis could elect a new Prime Minister who trusts US President Barack Obama. It could re-elect a current Prime Minister who doesn’t trust Obama.
In this election, many run for Prime Minister. But this race seems to be about just two contenders: Isaac (‘Buji’) Herzog and Benjamin (‘Bibi’) Netanyahu.
US President Obama has plans for Israel. He expects the next Prime Minister to commit to a ‘two-state’ solution (Baraki Ravid, “U.S.: We expect next Israeli government to be committed to two-state solution”, Haaretz, March 9, 2015). If past performance (of Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry) is any indication of future performance, this announcement means just one thing: Barack Obama is going to insist that the next Prime Minister of Israel capitulate to US demands.
The question for tomorrow’s election is, will Israel resist getting those demands shoved down its throat (by re-electing Bibi), or will Israel open wide (by electing Buji)?
Make no mistake. Buji Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, is no Bibi Netanyahu, leader of Likud.
Bibi is (at least in theory) a Rightist. He believes (at least in theory) in resisting the ‘two-state’ solution. In fact, he’s resisted it (in theory) during his terms in office. He believes Iran poses an existential threat to Israel. He believes (at least in theory) that Hamas poses an existential threat to Israel. He’s attacked Hamas repeatedly. He believes (many feel) that Barack Obama is no friend of Israel.
Buji appears not to believe any of this. He’s a Leftist. Whatever Bibi believes, Buji believes the opposite.
He’s so Leftist that just two weeks after the 2014 Gaza-Israel war, when Hamas was running around crying, ‘we won!’, we won!’ (David Horovitz, “Hamas victory celebrations should not be easily dismissed”, Times of Israel, August 26, 2014), Buji was in the US declaring that Israel had to restart peace talks (Barbara Slavin, “Israeli labor leader calls for new peace talks with Palestinians” ALMonitor, September 10, 2014).
That declaration made Israel look weak. It was a signal to Hamas that an important Israeli politician—opposition leader Buji--felt beaten. Hamas perceived him as a ‘loser’. They saw him as ‘suing for peace’ (for an analysis of Buji, the Left and Arab war, see Mordechai Kedar, “Why Does the Arab World Long for Labor to Win?”, Arutz Sheva, March 10, 2015).
Buji’s enthusiasm for peace spells ‘weakness’ to the Arab world (Kedar, ibid). That doesn’t help Israel. It makes ‘Palestinian’ leaders more anti-Israel. But his position is in perfect alignment with Israel’s Left. The Left loves ‘peace’. It loves Buji (Anshel Pfeffer, “Is Herzog the ultimate anti-Netanyahu?”, Haaretz, March 15, 2015).
That may explain his popularity. He stands for everything Netanyahu isn’t.
Netanyahu isn’t weak. For example, two weeks ago, he gave a speech before a joint session of Congress. He went despite white-hot controversy over the speech. He didn’t back down. He went to defend Israel (“Netanyahu: I Will ‘Go Anywhere’ to Defend Israel”, United with Israel, January 25, 2015).
As a result of that speech, Netanyahu morphed for many in the world from being the leader of a tiny (8 million people) country into the leader of the free world (Grace Vuoto, “New leader of Free World: Netanyahu gives the speech an American president should have made”, worldtribune, March 3, 2015).
The way Bibi sees Israel’s relationship with the US, a Prime Minister must be strong to resist pressure from a hostile Obama (Harriet Sherwood “Bibi Netanyahu May Face Payback Following Obama Re-Election”, Business Insider, November 7, 2012; and Gil Hoffman, “Is Obama right that Netanyahu is too ‘strong’ to make peace?”, Jerusalem Post, August 11, 2014) . Bibi was certainly strong enough to go to Obama’s ‘house’ to speak inconvenient and unwanted truths (United with Israel, above).
As a result of that personal strength, Israel has been protected. But now Obama hates Netanyahu and threatens Israel (Isi Leibler, “Obama and Netanyahu Rift is Unbridgeable”, wordfromjerusalem, March 10, 2014). So far, despite intense pressure from both Obama and Kerry, Netanyahu has retained ‘his cool’ (ibid).
Would Buji resist Obama’s pressure? Apparently, he won’t need to. He believes that “the Jewish state’s bosom bud and noble guardian [Barack Obama] will do right by us [Israel]. No need to obsess and kvetch about the [Iranian atom] bomb. There is someone in the White House to watch over us. We can rely on him” (Sarah Honig, “Buji and the bomb”, Jerusalem Post, March 13, 2015).
Buji trusts Barack Obama. Bibi doesn’t.
Tomorrow’s election is important. We’ll have to choose: Buji or Bibi.
May HaShem have mercy on us.