James Traub writes:
It is widely believed in Israel that Netanyahu’s close aides have been demeaning Obama to the Israeli public through an orchestrated whispering campaign and that this accounts in part for Obama’s dismal poll ratings there. And he and his Likud party have longstanding ties to the Republican Party, which shares Likud’s faith in free markets, its deep suspicion toward most Arab regimes, and its low regard for the Palestinian sense of grievance. Conservative evangelicals, an important GOP constituency, also tend to be passionately pro-Israel. Thus after the new settlement flare-up, Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, told the New York Times that with the Republicans now in the ascendant, Netanyahu “feels that he’s got a freer hand here.”
I called the office of Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican whip and the leading GOP voice on Israel, to ask whether he felt this was so. Cantor has, among other things, suggested that aid to Israel be removed from the foreign-assistance budget so that his party could zero out funding to unfriendly countries while sparing Israel. Cantor was unavailable to talk, but I was sent remarks he had just made on talk radio-host Don Imus’s Imus in the Morning: “I don’t understand how the president wants to push our best ally in the Middle East into a posture of thinking that we’re not going to back their security.” Cantor said that “it is very controversial” to “slam our ally, Israel,” adding that “most Americans understand that Israel’s security is synonymous with America’s security.”
Actually, it’s extraordinary to think that any country’s security can be “synonymous” with that of the United States, though of course even this assumes that Netanyahu’s definition of Israel’s security is right, while that of, say, former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon, or aspiring prime minister Tzipi Livni, is wrong. Or is Cantor saying that Americans should automatically accept Israel’s own definition of its security? The United States doesn’t automatically accept even Britain’s definition of its own security. Whichever it is, the Israel-is-always-right wing of the Republican Party is in a much more powerful position today than it was two weeks ago, and Netanyahu would have every reason to believe that the GOP has his back. So much for those who say that the election had no effect on the conduct of foreign affairs.