Israel holds major stakes in US midterm elections
Israeli officials are watching closely the midterm congressional elections in the US on Tuesday, according to reports, as the results will likely have major ramifications for the longtime allies and any current potential for a Middle East peace deal.
Republicans, according to just about every election analyst in the US, are poised to take control of the US Senate after voters go to the polls on Tuesday. The GOP is also expected to pad its already-substantial majority in the US House. More conservative power in Washington is certainly the preference of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose public relationship with US President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has strained in recent years.
A shift rightward in Washington would likely hamper ongoing negotiations between Iran, Israel’s regional nemesis, and six major world powers - the US, Russia, the UK, China, France, and Germany - attempting to come to terms on Iran’s nuclear program. An interim nuclear agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 group of global powers was achieved in November 2013. In exchange for concessions to its nuclear program, the P5+1 group began reducing economic sanctions levied against Tehran.
The midterms come at a crucial time for the Iran-P5+1 talks. Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear capabilities are scheduled to end in three weeks, and later this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and outgoing European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton.
Tel Aviv, on the other hand, has sought to scuttle any deal, and more Republican power in the US would likely boost Netanyahu’s hand. Haaretz reported that Netanyahu would lobby a sympathetic US Congress to avoid any deal with the Islamic Republic, preferring to maintain sanctions that have help depress Iran’s economy.
US-Israel relations have also soured since a senior White House official recently referred to Netanyahu as a “chickenshit” in an interview with the Atlantic.
“The thing about Bibi [Netanyahu] is, he’s a chickenshit,” a senior Obama administration official told the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who published the quote in an article one week ago on the “crisis in US-Israeli relations.”
“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars. The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states,” the anonymous source continued.
The White House and Sec. Kerry quickly moved to distance themselves from the quotes.
Compounding the controversy, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki recently said Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are "incompatible with the pursuit of peace."
Netanyahu responded to the charge as saying anyone opposed to Israel’s increasingly bold expansion plans into Palestinian territory are “disconnected from reality,” the International Business Times reported.
In addition, a report in the Maariv newspaper detailed how Netanyahu has claimed Obama, following a successful midterm election for his Democratic Party, will lift the ban given to Israel concerning actions in the United Nations Security Council.
"Obama intends to destroy the most sacred of holy relationships between Israel and the United States and he intends to use the US veto against Israel at the UN. Without the power of the US veto, Israel would not be able to stay,” wrote Maariv, as pointed out by the International Business Times.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to offer the Security Council a draft resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlements beyond the green line by November 2016.
"Obama intends to abandon Israel as it faces the UN Security Council in an effort to block Israel's decision to build on Palestinian territory that has been occupied since 1967,” an anonymous Israeli politician told Maariv.
Netanyahu allegedly told political allies of Obama’s impending abandonment of Tel Aviv.
"This step was what Israel feared the moment Obama was re-elected and here it is happening today," the prime minister said, according to Maariv’s report.
Yet other observers believe that with Democrats’ midterm prospects as low as pundits and polls believe, the Obama administration - facing two more years in office - will likely retreat from its current stance on a peace deal.