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New Likud ad highlights past US rift over creation of state

Clip likens Netanyahu’s insistence to speak to Congress on Iran to Ben-Gurion’s decision to declare independence despite some US opposition

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama meet at the White House in 2011. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama meet at the White House in 2011. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office/Flash90)

A new campaign video released by the ruling Likud party likens Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current dispute with the White House to the climate surrounding David Ben-Gurion’s decision to declare independence for the State of Israel, over some US objection.

The video begins with a historical overview of the lead-up to the state’s creation, painting a picture of an embattled national figure who had to make the critical decision of declaring independence against the wishes of the US secretary of state.

“Would we be here today if Ben-Gurion hadn’t done the right thing?” the clip asks, immediately followed by the campaign slogan “Only the Likud, Only Netanyahu” — an unequivocal attempt to draw a parallel between Netanyahu and the state’s legendary first prime minister.

Then-US secretary of state George Marshall strongly opposed recognizing Israel, favoring a United Nations trusteeship after the end of the British mandate. But president Harry Truman supported the 1947 UN partition plan and the creation of the State of Israel, making the US the first country to provide Israel with de facto recognition moments after it declared independence — perhaps a historical oversight made by the Likud.

Harry Truman receives a gift from Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Ambassador to the US Abba Eban at the White House in 1951. (photo credit: Courtesy GPO)
Harry Truman receives a gift from Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Ambassador to the US Abba Eban at the White House in 1951. (photo credit: Courtesy GPO)

The ad was posted on Netanyahu’s Facebook page accompanied by a message in which the PM said he had every intention to voice his objections to a nuclear deal with Iran before the US Congress next month.

“Congress is the only place where a bad deal can be stopped. It is the right and essential thing to do to safeguard Israel’s security and existence,” Netanyahu wrote.

The 30-second clip came amid heightened tensions between Israel and the US ahead of Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to a joint session of Congress on March 3, two weeks before Israeli national elections. Netanyahu’s acceptance of the invitation to speak on Iran and warn against a bad nuclear deal infuriated the White House, which claimed the visit was not coordinated with the administration and was thus a breach of protocol.

האם היינו כאן אם בן גוריון לא היה עושה את הדבר הנכון?==בכוונתי להשמיע בפני בתי הקונגרס את התנגדותי להסכם מסוכן עם איראן – הסכם שיאפשר לאיראן לייצר עשרות פצצות גרעין תוך כמה שנים – מפני שהקונגרס הוא המקום היחיד שבו ניתן לעצור הסכם רע כזה ומפני שזהו הדבר הנכון והחיוני למען ביטחונה וקיומה של מדינת ישראל. צפו >>

Posted by ‎Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו‎ on Saturday, February 21, 2015

US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry said they would not meet with the Israeli PM during the visit, citing a running policy not to meet with heads of states before elections. Joe Biden’s office has said the vice president was set to visit Latin America at that time and will not be present for the speech. Kerry was also said to be “out of town” during Netanyahu’s trip.

While Netanyahu has long been skeptical of the negotiations, his opposition has increased over what he sees as Obama’s willingness to make concessions that would leave Iran a nuclear-threshold state. His opposition has intensified as negotiations go into overdrive with an end-of-March deadline for a framework deal.

Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its very existence, citing Tehran’s repeated calls for Israel’s destruction, its long-range missile program and its support for anti-Israel terror groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for purely civilian purposes.

The strained ties between the two allies were evident again this week when the White House admitted to withholding from Israel sensitive details of the ongoing nuclear negotiations between world powers and Iran to prevent leaks to the press.

The White House and State Department have both publicly accused Israeli officials of leaking “cherry-picked” details of the negotiations to try to discredit the administration.

US officials said Saturday that the White House was weighing several options to undermine Netanyahu’s speech, including sending non-senior administration officials to the upcoming AIPAC conference — a move that would be considered a snub — and a series of presidential media interviews.

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