- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
Throughout this year’s presidential election, as talk of a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities has grown louder, there has been rampant speculation about whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favors Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and how that preference could influence the timing of a strike. Reports of a longstanding friendship between Netanyahu and Romney only fueled the debate, especially since Netanyahu and Obama reportedly have a chilly personal relationship.
In a national security address on Thursday evening — a day after Democratic leaders added language on Jerusalem to their platform in the face of intense criticism — Senator John Kerry (D-MA) suggested that, in fact, Netanyahu is on Obama’s side:
Barack Obama promised always to stand with Israel to tighten sanctions on Iran — and take nothing off the table.
Again and again, the other side has lied about where this president stands and what this president has done. But Prime Minister Netanyahu set the record straight — he said, our two countries have "exactly the same policy," "our security cooperation is unprecedented." When it comes to Israel, I’ll take the word of Israel’s prime minister over Mitt Romney any day.
Kerry, who was referring to comments Netanyahu made in speeches to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2011 and 2012, wasn’t the only speaker at the Democratic convention to quote Netanyahu as an unwitting surrogate. Here’s what former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler had to say on Tuesday evening:
Last week, Mitt Romney claimed that the president has thrown Israel "under the bus."
Perhaps Mr. Romney should listen to those who know best — Israel’s leaders.
Listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has thanked president Obama for "unprecedented" security cooperation and for wearing his support for the Jewish state as a "badge of honor."
Republicans have used Netanyahu’s words to their advantage too. When Romney visited Israel as part of a foreign tour over the summer, the Israeli prime minister told the candidate that he agreed with his assessment of the Iranian threat. The "sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota," Netanyahu observed. The Romney campaign quickly emailed out news coverage of the meeting.
Netanyahu, for his part, has avoided jumping into the fray — at least explicitly. In July, ahead of Romney’s trip to Israel, he told CBS’s Bob Schieffer that he would treat the Republican candidate like he treated candidate Obama when he visited Israel in 2008. When Schieffer asked whether he would be as comfortable with a President Romney as he was with a President Obama, Netanyahu teased him for asking the question. "You’re far too experienced a reporter," he said. In another interview with Fox News, he chided Chris Wallace for asking the same question, saying "you’re far too wise a journalist to think that I’m going to get into your field of American politics."
I would call the prime minister’s office and ask if Kerry’s speech tonight has, at long last, inspired Netanyahu to issue an endorsement. But I’m far too wise a journalist.