Reality bites for Benjamin Netanyahu after he threw his solid support behind Mitt Romney

 

Jerusalem

Israeli President Shimon Peres and other moderate leaders hailed Mr Obama’s re-election but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu awoke to a double shock.

“This is probably not a very good morning for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” said Interior Minister Eli Yishai, a major coalition partner.

After several abrasive encounters with President Barack Obama, Mr Netanyahu and his Likud Party had thrown their support solidly behind Mitt Romney in what opposition leader Shaul Mofaz described as “a rude, blunt, unprecedented, wanton and dangerous intervention in the United States election.”

Mr Netanyahu must hope that Mr Obama will not bear any grudges as Israel tries to convince the US to take urgent action to halt Iran’s nuclear programme, including a possible military strike.

President Obama’s victory may also have re-written the cast list and script for Israel’s own general election on January 22.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is now expected to return at the head of a united opposition list – the first credible challenge to Mr Netanyahu. It is an indication of the poor state of Israeli politics that opposition’s best hope was forced to resign as prime minister under suspicion of corruption, has been convicted on one corruption charge and is still on trial for another.

Mr Netanyahu moved swiftly yesterday to try and repair some of the damage, sending urgent messages to colleagues to keep quiet. He failed. World Likud Chairman Danny Danon said Israel “will not surrender” to Mr Obama and his “ill-advised policies.”

Commentators in Yisrael Hayom, the free daily bankrolled by Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who finances both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Romney, warned of impending doom. “Obama’s re-election means Olmert will run against Netanyahu and a ‘grand bargain’ with Iran can be made at our expense,” wrote one columnist.

Palestinians were also divided. President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Mr Obama’s re-election, while Hamas leaders urged him to abandon his pro-Israel bias.

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