Based on the events of the past day and a half, it’s difficult not to conclude that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu believes that Mitt Romney will almost certainly lose the election to Barack Obama. By implicitly extending Israel’s “red line” for possible military action against Iran by six months or more in his speech before the General Assembly and by explicitly praising the president, he essentially withdrew from the election. If that weren’t clear enough, he also went along with this statement released by the White House after a phone conversation with Obama today:
President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke today as part of their regular consultations, and to follow up on Secretary Clinton’s meeting with the Prime Minister. The two leaders discussed a range of security issues, and the President reaffirmed his and our country’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. The two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Prime Minister welcomed President Obama’s commitment before the United Nations General Assembly to do what we must to achieve that goal. The two leaders took note of the close cooperation and coordination between the Governments of the United States and Israel regarding the threat posed by Iran – its nuclear program, proliferation, and support for terrorism – and agreed to continue their regular consultations on this issue going forward.
It’s pretty clear that Netanyahu has read all the polls, Nate Silver’s analyses, and the on-line betting and has decided that now is the time to kiss and make up with Obama in hopes that the president really means it when he says that containing Iran is off the table and that he’s determined to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And if he now keeps quiet for the balance of the election campaign, it will be much more difficult for Romney and his neo-con advisers and supporters and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) to make the case that “Obama has thrown Israel under the bus.” On the contrary, it now looks like Bibi has thrown Romney under the bus.
How does someone like Sheldon Adelson — well, there really isn’t anyone like Sheldon Adelson — who previously pledged to contribute as much as $100 million to defeating Obama react to this? Or was Adelson consulted by Netanyahu in advance? It’s worth noting that, in his National Journal column, political wizard Charles Cook noted Thursday that:
“If the presidential race stays on its current course for another week or 10 days, Romney faces the very real prospect that Republican donors, super PACs, and other parts of the GOP support structure will begin to shift resources away from helping him and toward a last-ditch effort to win a Senate majority-which once seemed very likely-and to protect the party’s House majority.”
Perhaps Adelson and other wealthy donors associated with the RJC have already made the same calculation as Bibi.
It also appears as though those of Netanyahu’s advisers — as well as most of the Israeli national-security establishment — who have been warning that his intervention in the U.S. election was backfiring badly and ultimately risked Israel’s relationship with its most important strategic ally have finally prevailed.
UPDATE: It’s certainly worth noting that those who have actual money in the game now assess the chances of a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran before the end of this year. Look at the spectacular drop since Bibi’s speech in the betting that there would be such an attack on Intrade, the major on-line betting site: from 30% to 16% virtually overnight.
UPDATE II: It gets worse for Romney. The Wall Street Journal reported today that Netanyahu called Romney after he spoke with Obama at Romney’s request!
Mr. Netanyahu hadn’t planned on talking with Mr. Romney while in the U.S., but the Republican candidate then requested a call, an Israeli official said.
The Israeli leader agreed because he was worried he could appear to be making a political statement by refusing to talk to Mr. Romney, according to the official.”
I think the unnamed Israeli official provided more information than the Romney campaign would have liked.