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Will Congress Bail Bibi Out?

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Will Congress Bail Bibi Out?"

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Josh Marshall thinks that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel probably can’t survive a prolonged confrontation with Barack Obama over the settlement freeze issue. I tend to agree and reach a similar conclusion in my new TAP Online column. But what Josh doesn’t mention is what I take to be the cornerstone of Netanyahu’s strategy—bringing domestic political pressure on Obama.

Thus far, Obama’s taken some really hard hits mostly from the likes of Charles Krauthammer and has only gotten pretty gentle pressure from even very AIPAC-friendly Democrats like Steny Hoyer. But it’s possible that those goes will turn up the temperature, and create a political dynamic in which Obama starts being eager to find some sort of face-saving compromise. At the moment, in other words, the key issue in that part of the world has to do with congressional politics thousands of miles away. The contest here is about whose domestic coalition will remain further. Based on what I’ve seen, most Israelis don’t like the idea of a real settlement freeze. But they’re not fanatics about it, and they like the idea of alienating the United States even less. If Obama continues to have supporters in the media, on the Hill, and among the grassroots, then Bibi will either need to back down or his coalition will be forced out of office.

This, in turn, is why things like J Street helping out Rep Donna Edwards (D-MD) after hawks started threatening to mount a primary challenge against her is so important. If we have a situation in which members of congress willing to stick with Obama aren’t fighting alone, then it becomes much easier for the administration to maintain allies on the Hill and stick to its guns.

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