Obama’s Op-ed on Netanyahu angers Israeli MPs

Better late than never

JERUSALEM - Israeli MPs on Wednesday accused US President Barack Obama of meddling in Israel's upcoming elections over an opinion piece purporting to outline his view of Benjamin Netanyahu's "self-defeating" policies.
The piece, which was published by the prominent Bloomberg columnist Jeffery Goldberg, made headlines across the Israeli press and sparked angry reactions from MPs from the Israeli prime minister's ruling rightwing Likud party.
In the article, Goldberg said Obama appeared to see Netanyahu as a "political coward" vis-a-vis the peace process with the Palestinians who was completely "captive to the settler lobby," and whose ongoing settlement activity was moving Israel "down a path toward near total isolation."
"This is gross interference by the US president in the elections in Israel," senior Likud officials told Israel HaYom, an openly pro-Netanyahu daily.
Others told The Jerusalem Post the US leader was "taking revenge" on Netanyahu for his overt support for Obama's rival during the presidential race in November.
Netanyahu's bureau refused all comment on the article.
But Danny Danon, number five on the Likud list, said such commentary would only bring Netanyahu -- who is already the clear frontrunner -- more votes.
"Any external intervention attempts only brings us more seats," he told the top-selling Yediot Aharonot.
Opposition figures leapt at the chance to attack Netanyahu.
"Anyone who still thinks things will be okay, woke up this morning to a very clear and sharp statement by the US president, who says that Israel's prime minister is leading the State of Israel into severe isolation," said former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist HaTnuah faction.
In the article, Goldberg wrote that Obama was unsurprised when Israel announced plans to build in E1, a highly-sensitive area of West Bank land near Jerusalem, suggesting it was "what he has come to expect" from Netanyahu's "self-defeating policies."
Although the US would not cut off its aid to Israel, the Jewish state could soon notice a "significant shift" on the diplomatic front, he wrote.
"It is in terms of American diplomatic protection -- among the Europeans and especially at the UN -- that Israel may one day soon notice a significant shift," he said, suggesting the US may fail to whip up votes against perceived anti-Israel resolutions, or even abstain.