Netanyahu votes Romney, Ehud Barak endorses Obama

All political pundits in Israel are touting the same line this weekend: Barak is splitting from Netanyahu. The defense minister opposed the prime minister’s tone and messages towards the American administration, doesn’t think that Israel must attack during “the political window of opportunity” (i.e. before the presidential elections), and has given up hope that Netanyahu will add him and his party members to the Likud list for the next Knesset.

Proxies to Barak also quoted his “frustration” over the lack of progress or interest Netanyahu has showed in the diplomatic process. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Barak was said to believe that the Palestinian issue – and not the Iranian bomb – is the real existential threat Israel is facing. No kidding. And Likud’s Yuval Steinitz has already started attacking Barak on behalf of the prime minister.

A couple of takeaways:

1. More than anything, it seems to me that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak have taken opposing sides in the presidential elections. Netanyahu is putting all his chips on the Republican party. He did all he could to help the candidacy of Mitt Romney – throwing a big welcome for him in Jerusalem and avoiding the customary public congratulations for the president, who on that very day approved the financing of another Iron Dome battery. It wouldn’t be such a wild guess to suggest Netanyahu is also behind the recent revelation over his outburst in the meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, at the same time, has an open channel with the administration, and has repeatedly aided the Democratic campaign by repeatedly praising the president for his commitment to Israel’s security. Quote:

I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.

What remains to be seen is which one of the Odd Couple made the smarter bet. To be sure, I don’t think that a Republican administration would be that different from what we got from the Democrats with regards to Israel/Palestine, but the result of the elections will influence the Israeli political system.

If Obama wins, Netanyahu will be even more dependent on his defense minister and on his Republican friends on the Hill. Expect many more Cantor hours for the Israeli prime minister in such a case. If Romney gets the presidency, Netanyahu may as well move into the White House (though Sheldon gets to pick his bedroom first).

2. There will be no Israeli attack on Iran.