by Mati Tuchfeld
If you want to see a real picture of the situation, not an imaginary one, put Netanyahu head-to-head against Herzog and see the true numbers. Then put Netanyahu against Lapid and see the prime minister's numbers rise a little further. And then put Netanyahu against Tzipi Livni and see the prime minister's numbers soar sky-high.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro is charming and very nice and he exudes pleasantness and friendliness, with almost no vanity or haughtiness. But Shapiro is not a private individual. He is here to represent his country and its leader. So there is no doubt that his speech on Tuesday at Bar-Ilan University was made on behalf of U.S. President Barack Obama. Apparently, anything goes in the pursuit of the exalted goal of ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Shapiro's words were tough and blunt. They were not pleasant to hear, even for those who do not plan to vote for Likud in the upcoming elections. But Obama's gambit could still backfire and unite the Israeli public behind the prime minister it is seeking to get rid of.
How could an American president and his government make such an error? The explanation is simple. The sounds coming from Israel, which have reached a crescendo following the dissolution of the Knesset, have included critical media reports, delusional polls and phrases like "anyone but Bibi." This gave the U.S. government the feeling that only one small push on its part was needed to make Netanyahu suddenly disappear from our lives.
But the reality is more complex. In stark contrast to common perception, Netanyahu is, as of now, the only person who would be able to form a government after the elections. Even according to the Channel 10 poll published on Tuesday, which was the least favorable to date for the prime minister and the Right, Netanyahu would remain in power (the Channel 10 poll numbers: Labor, 22 seats; Likud, 20; Habayit Hayehudi, 15; Moshe Kahlon, 13; Yisrael Beytenu, 11; Yesh Atid, 10). You can put together coalitions day and night in television studios -- Avigdor Lieberman with Zehava Gal-On, Yair Lapid with the ultra-Orthodox, Isaac Herzog with the Arabs -- all for the purpose of giving the impression that Netanyahu is out as prime minister. And this is all before Netanyahu pulls a rabbit out of hat, such as a joint list with Habayit Hayehudi, which certainly could happen if the poll numbers continue to shift. At the moment, however, there is no need for this.
On the question of who is most fit to be prime minister, the Channel 10 poll, with its long list of candidates, was designed to show low support for Netanyahu. If you want to see a real picture of the situation, not an imaginary one, put Netanyahu head-to-head against Herzog and see the true numbers. Then put Netanyahu against Lapid and see the prime minister's numbers rise a little further. And then put Netanyahu against Tzipi Livni and see the prime minister's numbers soar sky-high.
Obama, who receives briefings from his advisers on what is going on in Israel, certainly got the impression that Livni, whom he knows well, has recently become a popular figure, a true jewel in the crown of Israel's left-wing parties. The Israeli public's disgust with Livni's cynicism and the ease with which, time and time again, she discards her people, has not reached Washington. Here in Israel, however, it is very apparent.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.