Beto O’Rourke’s Latest Remarks Might Push Bibi Across the Finish Line
For all of the talk and furor over Russia possibly meddling in the United States’ 2016 Presidential election, the U.S. has no problem when it comes to sticking its nose into other countries’ processes, none more so than when it comes to Israel. Beto O’Rourke, the failed Senate candidate from the state of Texas, made harsh comments in the final days leading up to the Israeli elections of 2019. Beto declared that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “racist” and does not believe he “represents the true will of the Israeli people.” If this was Vladimir Putin or one of his stooges making similar remarks about Hilary Clinton circa October 2016, most in America would correctly see this as an outside source trying to influence an American process. But when the shoe is on the Israeli foot, American politicians see no issues commenting on what is happening in the only true democratic elections in the Middle East. Back in 2015, President Barack Obama tried to oust Bibi with American taxpayer money and it failed. Beto’s comments in the final hours of the Israeli elections might have the same effect.
Clearly, there are some differences between the two situations. Firstly, when Obama tried and failed to meddle in the Israeli elections of 2015, he did so as the sitting president, not somebody who was wilting in the polls of the Democratic primaries. This meant that what Obama said had some serious weight. Secondly, and most importantly for Netanyahu, when Obama wanted to influence the Israeli election and the perception of the Israeli Prime Minister, he did so when trying to pass the overtly terrible Iran Deal. For Netanyahu, this gave him a chance to go on the offensive–somewhere he is at his most comfortable. He spoke three times in front of the American Congress and excoriated the Iran Deal that was getting pushed by the Obama Administration. We now know that the administration lied to the American people in order to help pass the deal and Netanyahu was proven correct in the most glaring of examples.
At the time, the poll numbers were not kind to Bibi, but his show of force and strength against an agitating American President allowed him to surge ahead in the polls and maintain his grip as the leader of Israel. This time around though, he is dealing with an entirely different situation.
If you live in Tel Aviv, the most progressive city in Israel, you would think the Blue and White party is going to win in a landslide. The most uttered phrase in The White City is not “Yalla Gantz” (“let’s go Gantz”–for Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White Party). No. The most uttered phrase is, “anybody but Bibi.” However, what happens and what is said in Tel Aviv is not always what occurs in the polls. While just a couple of weeks ago Gantz was ahead in the polls, it looks like in the final days before the election it is a dead heat between Gantz and Netanyahu. This is making many who believe Netanyahu has swung too far to the right really nervous. They are wary over who will control the Education Ministry and balk at his corruption charges (among other issues).
However, the one thing that has helped Netanyahu the most in recent elections is the inadvertent push he gets from outside sources who disparage him. And unfortunately for the backers of Gantz, there is no shortage of people coming out against the sitting Israeli Prime Minister. In addition to Beto O’Rourke ollieing his way into the fray, people like Jordanian Speaker of the Senate Faisal al-Fayez have also found it important to lend their two cents. What seemed like an almost sure thing just a short time ago has turned into anything but for Gantz. Now instead of trying to fight off one of the most dependable voting issues in politics (the dreaded Status Quo), Gantz is facing outside forces who are making his political life as difficult as possible.
There are many issues at stake in the 2019 Israeli elections. While some will think of healthcare and others will harp on the economy (everybody thinks about security), the only real question for Israelis seems to be “Bibi or Gantz?” It looked for all intents and purposes that the answer was going to be Gantz. However, now that the Democrat’s answer for “what would Poochy look like as a Presidential candidate,” has decided to interject himself into Israel’s election, it might be the final push Bibi needs to get across the finish line. As of today, Israel does not know, and the world does not know. But sometime in the near future, we will all find out if this last gasp effort to meddle in a foreign election will backfire on a democratic politician once again.