Are Obama Operatives Meddling In Israeli Election To Defeat Netanyahu?

A bipartisan U.S. Senate committee reportedly wants to find out if Obama campaign operatives and others are trying to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from being reelected as Israel’s prime minister.

The national election takes place Tuesday, and polling suggests that Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party is currently trailing the leftwing Zionist Union.

Although most Israeli votes apparently prefer “Bibi” Netanyahu as prime minister over his main rival, Yitzhak Herzog, Netanyahu’s party must win enough seats in Israel’s fragmented parliament for him to continue in the top job.

Although the U.S. and Israel — the only functioning, multicultural democracy in the Middle East — are traditional allies, the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu can be described as along the lines of frenemies. The two leaders have rhetorically sparred on many issues, not the least of which was the appropriateness of the prime minister’s speech to a joint session of Congress on March 3 where he warned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the Obama administration’s weak dealmaking.

An unsubstantiated report recently emerged that Obama supposedly vowed that he would deploy the U.S. Air Force to shoot down Israeli jets if the Jewish state mounted a preemptive airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations is probing whether outside groups are attempting to oust Netanyahu from office, Fox News reported.

“According to the source, the probe is looking into ‘funding’ by OneVoice Movement — a Washington-based group that has received $350,000 in recent State Department grants, and until last November was headed by a veteran diplomat from the Clinton administrations. A subsidiary of OneVoice is the Israel-based Victory 15 campaign, itself guided by top operatives of Obama’s White House runs, which seeks to ‘replace the government’ of Israel.”

Netanyahu himself has complained about foreign governments allegedly and illegally bankrolling efforts to kick him out as the country’s leader.

“This is a very close battle. Nothing is ensured because there is a great, worldwide effort to topple Likud rule,” he said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Netanyahu has been prime minister for the past six years.

“No direct link has been confirmed between Obama and the anti-Netanyahu campaign in Israel, but polls have shown that a large majority of Israelis believe the administration has been interfering in the election,” FNC added.

According to Reuters, the election is a toss up, and who will lead the new government, and how he gets there, is very much in doubt.

“The latest opinion polls predict the Zionist Union taking between 24 and 26 of parliament’s 120 seats in the election, compared with 20-22 seats for Likud. That could give Netanyahu’s challengers the chance to build the next coalition government. He could scrape into a fourth term, however, if the Zionist Union fails to muster enough support in an Israeli political spectrum where right-leaning parties are predominant.”

AP suggests that the election will be won or lost by Benjamin Netanyahu (and his presumed coalition partners) in connection with domestic issues, such as the high cost of living in Israel.

[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images News]