Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu has moved quickly to mend fences with the White House after President Barack Obama was re-elected to office for another four years. Wednesday was “not a good morning for Netanyahu,” as one of his deputies Eli Yishai of the religious Shas Party said, when results showed that Bibi’s friend Mitt Romney had lost the presidential race.
Netanyahu had at times confronted Obama or even tried to undermine him by making direct relations with the Republican-dominated, Israel-friendly Congress and during the election campaigning, had driven Obama into a tight corner by challenging his positions about Iran’s nuclear energy program and the recent developments in the Arab world. On Wednesday, however, the primer invited the US ambassador to Tel Aviv to his office to give his painful congratulations and issued a statement describing the bond between the US and Israel as “rock solid.” He also instructed his Likud Party leaders to omit any criticism of Obama in their congratulatory messages.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who plans to forge a comeback to the political arena after fighting an uphill battle in a corruption case, was emboldened by Obama’s re-election and took a swipe at Netanyahu for the way he had handled US-Israel relations. “Given what Netanyahu had done these recent months, the question is: Does our prime minister still have a friend in the White House?” Olmert asked at a meeting with Jewish leaders in New York. “I am not certain of this, and this might be very significant to us at critical points.”
Netanyahu also faces a harsh battle at home as the snap elections slated for January 22 approach. His Minister for Military Affairs, Ehud Barak, the leader of Independence Party, in recent months decided to side with the US over the issue of Iran’s nuclear energy program after a long sharing of a bellicose stance against Iran with the premier.
Barak rushed to congratulate Obama nearly an hour ahead of Netanyahu and seemingly failed to conceal his happiness at Obama’s re-election when he started e-mailing photos and videos of himself and the newly-elected president to reporters.