SOUTH FLORIDA, March 18, 2015 — As the globe celebrated the luck of the Irish, the Jewish leader of the free world celebrated good luck of his own. After being declared dead in the water, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu pulled off one of the all time political Lazarus acts. Despite predictions of a humiliating defeat for his conservative Likud Party, exit polls reaffirmed by actual votes showed Netanyahu eeking out a slight victory. As more votes came in, Netanyahu held a fairly significant lead of 30 seats for Likud to only 24 seats for the main Israeli liberals. It was sweet vindication for Netanyahu, and another bitter defeat for the increasingly irrelevant President Obama.
Despite refusing to help overthrow the mullahs during the popular 2009 Iranian Green Revolution, Obama was hell-bent on replacing Bibi. He sent his political operatives to offer the liberal Israeli candidates the 2008 Obama platform. Unlike American Millennials, battle-hardened Israelis saw “hope” and “change” as vapid, meaningless slogans. Netanyahu framed the election as a clear choice. Israeli liberals, egged on by Obama, would give away the store to Iran. Obama remains deeply unpopular in Israel, and tying the Israeli left to him was a successful Likud strategy. The American-educated Netanyahu understand United States politics, and he countered America’s 2008 election with the successful GOP strategies of 2010 and 2014.
The Obama administration will insist that Israelis voted on Israeli issues, but his protesting is as credible as somebody yelling, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Obama was not on the ballot in 2014, but he insisted that his policies were. In 2015 he injected himself into the Israeli election by obsessively pursuing a peace deal with Iran that Israelis knew was suicide for the Jewish state.
The 2015 Israeli election finds a very close parallel in the 2004 American presidential election. President George W. Bush was facing a frustrated electorate. The Iraq War still had majority support, but less so than in 2002. Exit polls had Massachusetts Senator John Kerry winning. In 2004 ABB stood for Anybody but Bush. Now it meant Anybody but Bibi. Just before the 2004 election, Bush reminded the voters that America was at war and the fate of the world was at stake. People decided not to change horses in midstream in the middle of a war.
Another reason the 2004 American election provides a lesson is the foreign meddling. A British town declared one Ohio swing area to be their sister city. British citizens flooded Ohio voters with postcards and letters urging them to vote for Kerry. This town that normally split the vote evenly ended up giving two-thirds of their votes to Bush. The outside interference was off-putting, and the backlash helped reelect Bush. In 2015, Netanyahu successfully convinced enough voters that outside forces were trying to remove him from power. Israelis may have been frustrated with Bibi, but they resented Obama trying to remove him.
Obama has a loyal cadre of supporters who will declare him right all the time regardless of the issue. The reality is that he is politically toxic. Netanyahu is a battle-hardened, master strategist. Obama’s hostility was a lifeline to a Bibi campaign on the verge of sinking.
Bibi not only attacked Obama’s Iran position, but his Palestinian support as well. Bibi vowed that as long as he was Prime Minister, there would never be a Palestinian State. While this has been dismissed by the Obama administration as campaign rhetoric, Netanyahu is smart enough to know what happens to leaders who say “Read my lips” and then reverse course. Netanyahu has pushed his chips to the center of the table and dared his political opponents to call his bluff. Given Obama’s track record, he will most likely fold and then declare victory anyway.
Bibi now has the advantage in terms of building the next governing coalition. While liberals want a unity coalition, Bibi may make peace with the right-wing Israeli parties to form another very conservative government. On January 20, 2017, Obama will be out of office and Bibi will most likely still be in power.
Obama can and will complain. He can and will make excuses. He can and will pretend that Bibi’s reelection is not driving him to the point of insanity. What Obama can no longer due is pressure Israel into committing cultural and national suicide. Obama was able to inflict some of his hard-left agenda on the American public, but he has not turned the world into one big global community social democracy that dithers while Islamists burn everything in sight. Every Arab Muslim nation has dismissed him. Israel was the only nation he thought he could bully. Now Israelis have pushed back. That just adds to the narrative of Obama as a lame duck quacking belligerently as people throw bread crumbs at him and walk away.
As Obama said, elections have consequences. Bibi won. He matters. Obama lost. Very soon, he will not matter at all. In less than two years, he will have zero power and influence. Thanks to Obama’s own overinflated ego and Bibi’s resiliency and cunning, Obama succeeded in accelerating his own irrelevance on the world stage.