Whether or not the Obama administration was unethically meddling in Israel's elections with the intent of ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House's electoral preferences were patently obvious. Team Obama doesn't take kindly to those who directly challenge and bruise Obama's ego, and Bibi has crossed that line at least twice. He famously lectured Obama during a 2011 Oval Office sit-down, in front of the cameras, after the president made a controversial comment about Israel returning to its indefensible 1967 borders. And he delivered a powerful speech to Congress about the administration's dangerous nuclear pact with Iran, an address the White House vehemently opposed through weeks of conniption fits. The partisan bad blood runs deep, and it's personal. So one might imagine that the mood at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was quite sour indeed when Netanyahu not only prevailed in Tuesday's elections, but was swept back into power in a surprisingly decisive victory. Public opinion polls portended a narrow Netanyahu loss, and were covered endlessly and breathlessly by an excited media. Obama would finally be rid of this thorn in his side. Exit polling stunned many observers by pointing at a tight Netanyahu win. But in the end, it wasn't even close:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party was the clear winner in Tuesday’s election, a near-final tally showed early Wednesday morning, defeating the Zionist Union by a margin of some six seats. That margin was far more decisive than TV exit polls had predicted when polling booths closed at 10 p.m. on Tuesday. All three TV polls had put Likud and Zionist Union neck-and-neck at 27 seats, albeit with Netanyahu better-placed to form a coalition…On the basis of those TV polls, Netanyahu hailed a Likud victory, though Herzog initially refused to concede. As counting proceeded through the night, however, the Likud opened a growing margin of victory. By 6 a.m., with some 99% of votes counted, the Central Elections Committee was indicating a dramatic victory for Netanyahu, with the Likud heading for 30 seats, compared to Zionist Union’s 24 seats.
Here's a sense of how badly the 'Bibi's cooked' conventional wisdom missed the mark:
So the election that was supposed to see Netanyahu crushed instead sees him reelected with Likud jumping from 18 seats to 29/30.— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) March 18, 2015
All of this was just too much for Obama's Svengali, David Axelrod, who bitterly ripped Netanyahu's "shameful" last-minute strategy on Twitter, in an effort to taint and diminish the victory:
Tightness of exits in Israel suggests Bibi's shameful 11th hour demagoguery may have swayed enough votes to save him. But at what cost?— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 17, 2015
It seems Axelrod's former colleagues didn't get the job done, and he's pretty steamed about it. For an analysis of the Left's go-to excuse for Netanyahu's big win, to which Axelrod is referring, read Jonathan Tabin in Commentary. This Jerusalem Post piece is also worthwhile. But Axelrod's sour grapes are delicious. Here's what Mary Katharine Ham and I wrote last night regarding Axe's self-unawareness:
Keep in mind that this lamenter of demagoguery is the same guy who ran a campaign that accused Mitt Romney of giving a woman cancer, blessing scurrilous charges of tax evasion, and darkly warning Ohio voters that Obama’s opponent wasn’t “one of us.” You’d think he’d respect a ruthless, win-at-all-costs (successful) strategy. Instead, he’s moaning about tactics and civility. Heal thyself…
Netanyahu's triumph all but guarantees that the quixotic, Kerry-led "peace process" is dead, and that Israel's leadership will remain a vocal, unapologetic, and understandably strident opponent of the terrible Iran deal -- on which the White House is busy trying to whip anxious Democrats back into line. I'll leave you with Bibi declaring victory before jubilant supporters, followed by the White House's official reaction (with a bit of editorializing from yours truly):
Parting thought: Given Obama's knee-jerk rejection of electoral thumpings, Tehran should consider adding some big demands to their list. Who knows what O might be willing to agree to, out of spite for Israeli voters, Bibi and the Cotton 47? Gulp.