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MITT, BIBI AND THEIR COMMON ENEMY
BY BOB FRANKEN
Now that Mitt Romney has done his famous back-stepping once again and withdrawn from the presidential race, he doesn’t have to be concerned about poverty and the middle class anymore. At least for the moment. I say that because buried in his pullout is a hint that he could be pushed back in if GOP leaders decided that the other candidates were making the party go kablooey, and asked him to reverse direction one more time to come roaring to the rescue.
Could it happen? “That seems unlikely,” said Romney, which is not the same thing as “No way.” “Unlikely” in Mittspeak seems to translate to: “Oh, just ask me. Pleeeeeeze!” But give the guy some credit: He can read the handwriting on the Republican wall, which was saying “Mitt Romney, go home” (or perhaps more appropriately “homes”; he’s got a bunch of them)! So that leaves center-right field open to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and even Lindsey Graham, who seems to have started a “sure, why not?” campaign.
As for Mitt, maybe for solace he can turn to his close friend Bibi. He’ll have his chance in March if Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows through on the plan to address Congress and entirely bypass President Barack Obama — and probably seriously set back U.S.-Israeli relations in the process.
If ever the Yiddish word “chutzpah” applied, this would be it. First of all, Netanyahu is running scared in his own election. Unfortunately for him, his move to insert himself into the U.S. political debate over Iran sanctions by addressing Congress is causing a backlash at home, where he’s been accused of serious hot-dogging. Not only that, but this whole maneuver was done behind the president’s back and arranged on the sly in secret discussions between the GOP’s House Speaker John Boehner and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
There’s something really important to note here: Dermer was born and raised in the United States. Before he switched U.S. for Israeli citizenship and became a Likud Party functionary, he had been a Republican operative. It is not a stretch to suspect that he would be a willing plot participant in the nonstop GOP effort to discredit Barack Obama, even if it sabotages American foreign policy in the explosive Middle East.
Add to the mix that Netanyahu really dislikes Mr. Obama, if for no other reason than the Obama administration hasn’t been as pliant when it comes to Israel’s wishes as other presidents. But it’s gotten personal, and it’s mutual. What’s really great about it is that the animosity is so intense that it can’t be hidden behind the usual diplomatic smokescreen. In fact, neither one of them bothers hiding it. For once, we get a clear view of big egos colliding.
It also means that any chance whatsoever of making progress in the fitful peace negotiations with the Palestinians is obliterated, certainly as long as these two figures dominate the world stage. It also means that the hope of somehow negotiating Iran away from nuclear development is in serious jeopardy, thanks to interference from Netanyahu and congressional Republicans.
Nobody wins. The White House feels like Netanyahu and Dermer have engaged in some seriously sleazy backstabbing. Not only will Obama refuse to see Netanyahu during his visit, but his aides openly talk about making Israel pay a big price diplomatically for what they regard as a serious and malicious breach of protocol.
It would not surprise me that, given all the negative election campaign reaction this stunt has produced at home, Netanyahu won’t come after all, that he’ll change his mind. If he does, then he’ll be just like his buddy Mitt Romney.
© 2015 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.