by Caroline B. Glick
US Vice President Joseph Biden's job is about to stop being easy. Indeed, it is about to become impossible.
On Monday Biden will arrive in
In his press conference in
Although Biden is just the latest senior
In light of the gaping disparity between the Obama administration's policies and those of the Israeli government, the apparent goal of Biden's address is to shore up the position of the Israeli Left as an alternative to Netanyahu. Apparently, the picture emerging from all of the senior
This of course is a difficult task. The Left after all was roundly defeated in last year's elections. Making it a credible alternative is no mean task.
The Israeli Left for its part is doing its best to tie its own fortunes to the administration. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni placed herself squarely in the Obama camp this week during her confrontation with Netanyahu at the Knesset. Belittling the results of last month's
There is nothing new or surprising about Livni's use of the Obama administration's animosity towards the government as a means of positioning herself as an alternative to the government. And on the surface it makes sense for her to use it. After all, it was by building a partnership with the
The Left's hope of forming a coalition with Obama against Netanyahu was given its most explicit expression last July in an op-ed by Ha'aretz's editor-at-large Aluf Benn in the New York Times. After expressing his support for Obama's policies, Benn bemoaned the fact that due to Obama's low approval ratings among Israeli Jews, (at the time they stood at 6 percent and later plunged to 4 percent), it would be hard for him to convince the Israeli public to abandon its support for Netanyahu in favor of Obama's — that is the Israeli Left's — policies. To improve this dismal state of affairs, Benn suggested that Obama simply needs to make his case to the Israeli public, which "will surely listen," to him.
As far as Benn — and his fellow leftists were concerned — Obama's credibility problems redounded not to his policies, which the Left supports. Instead they owed to his failure to dazzle the Israeli people with the same rhetorical magic he used on the Arabs and the Europeans. It was Obama's tone, not his programs that needed to be improved.
In arguing thus, Benn, like Livni and their colleagues on the Left are acting on their memories of their glory days with the
As the Left sees it,
When Benn's article was published his recommendation was shrugged off by the administration. So too, the White House rejected repeated requests from the local media for interviews with the President. Now however, with Obama's approval rates slipping and his
Biden was selected as the man for the job because he is widely perceived as the most pro-Israel senior member of the administration. The fact that before becoming Vice President Biden had one of the most pro-Iran voting records in the Senate has done nothing to mitigate this perception. Indeed, despite the fact that Biden voted repeatedly against sanctions on Iran, claimed that Iran's quest for nuclear bombs was understandable and called for the US to sign a non-aggression pact with the mullocracy while threatening to move for George W. Bush's impeachment if he were to order a military strike against Iran's nuclear weapons programs, Biden continues to be viewed as a solid supporter of Israel.
And indeed, in line with this perception, he can be expected to declare his undying love for the Jewish state several times during his speech. Yet still, and sadly for the Israeli Left and for the Obama administration, his charm offensive will fail to get the girl. The most his visit is likely to yield is a momentary rise in support among Israelis that will quickly recede. And there are four reasons this is the case.
First, Obama himself is far weaker than
Given Obama's weakness, it is hard to see how he can convince the Israeli public that he will be capable of protecting the country from a nuclear-armed
Second, the Netanyahu Obama faces is not the Netanyahu Clinton faced in the 1990s. Today the premier leads a far broader coalition than he did in his previous government. It is also more stable. Labor Party chief Defense Minister Ehud Barak knows he cannot unseat Netanyahu. Indeed, he knows he can't even trust his party to continue supporting him if he leaves Netanyahu's government. As for opposition leader Tzipi Livni, the latest polls show her trailing far behind Netanyahu as the people's choice for prime minister. Her party's popularity rates are decreasing, Likud's are growing.
Third, there is the fact that today the Left does not control public opinion to the degree it did the last time Netanyahu was in power. During his first government, due in large part to the media's delegitimization of the Right in the wake of Rabin's assassination, the media was able to market the PLO as a credible peace partner for
This is the case of course, for the fourth reason that Biden will fail in his mission. In the 11 years since Netanyahu was forced from office, the Left's political platform has been discredited by events. Since 1999 the Palestinians — as well as the Lebanese — have demonstrated that the Left's appeasement policies are disastrous. The 1,500 Israelis who have been killed since then by the Palestinians and Hizbullah, the transformation of post-Israeli withdrawal southern Lebanon and Gaza into jihadist enclaves, the rise of Iran, and Fatah's open rejection of Israel's right to exist have all made the Left's policies unacceptable to a wide majority of Israelis.
The public's rejection of the Left's policies is so overwhelming that it has even rejected the Left's current central claim — namely that
What all of this shows of course is that it will take much more than a change in tone for the Obama administration to win over the Israeli public. Indeed, Obama's open hostility towards Netanyahu has probably been a significant factor in shoring up the public's approval of his performance in office.
The Israeli public is not interested in a change of tone — from Obama or from the Israeli Left. It is interested in a change of policy. Until it gets it, the public will in all likelihood remain loyal to Netanyahu.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in
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