Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprise election victory puts Hillary Clinton in a tough spot–and could even sink her presidential campaign in 2016.
Right now, Hillary is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Israel.
Netanyahu and President Barack Obama have had a historically frosty relationship, with a whopping 93% of voters in Israel’s ruling Likud Party distrusting Obama, and feeling that he would sign a deal with Iran that runs counter to Israel’s security.
Obama, for his part, has been heavily critical of Netanyahu–with one White House official even caught referring to the Israeli leader as “chicken s**t.” He also famously ignored an impassioned and high-profile speech that Netanyahu recently gave to Congress about Israeli security issues.
If Hillary follows in Obama’s footsteps on Israel, she risks alienating big money from Jewish donors, whom she’ll need to launch and fund her campaign.
These donors–and their votes–could defect to a more pro-Israeli candidate in the Democratic primaries or even throw their support to the Republican Party, which would be a financial disaster to Democrats, who have long depended on that wealthy demographic.
But, on the flip side, she’ll be under increased pressure to criticize Netanyahu to satisfy a Democratic Party that’s grown increasingly anti-Israel over the past few years.
Specifically if Hillary Clinton gets a challenger from the Left, like former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley or Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, she would need to quickly shore up her liberal credentials, especially when it comes to foreign policy.
Though Hillary has worked closely with Netanyahu for years, and describes her relationship with him as “very good,” she also admits that she was also the “designated yeller.” And, while in her 2014 memoir Hard Choices she describes many foreign leaders in flattering terms, she brusquely describes Netanyahu as a “complicated figure.” Bill Clinton, too, was caught on a hot microphone last summer saying that Netanyahu was “not the guy” to bring peace to the Middle East.
Netanyahu also holds some animosity towards the Clintons, regretting a 1999 treaty signed with Bill Clinton that gave some Israeli land to Palestinian rebels.
Despite her mixed relationship with Netanyahu, Hillary will be forced to clarify her position on Israel–and make a key choice whether to cater to wealthy Jewish donors or the growing liberal grassroots.