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For Bibi, Clinton is a light in the tunnel

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November 24, 2016 23:26

January 20, 2017 is a date already marked by a red circle on the calendar in Benjamin Netanyahu's office - that is the day Barack Obama will finally leave the White House. It would be hard to imagine a leading US politician the Israeli Prime Minister would less like to see occupying the Oval Office than the incumbent. No, not even Hillary Rodham Clinton - or, as of last Sunday, the most prominent candidate so far in the presidential race.

While most prospective candidates feel it necessary to make a visit to Israel at some stage and are taken on the standard tour, including a helicopter flight to show them the country's slender borders, Ms Clinton will have little need of this. She accompanied her husband on his presidential visits, as senator for New York she has an intimate knowledge of Jewish affairs and, of course, in her previous position as secretary of state she was a frequent guest in Jerusalem.

This does not necessarily endear her to the current Israeli administration. Mr Netanyahu still remembers how the first Clinton administration were bitter foes of his during his first term as Prime Minister, and played a central role in his election defeat to Ehud Barak in 1999.

The hope, however, will still be that Ms Clinton, if elected, will work to improve the relationship which has suffered so much in recent years.

So far, the signals are mixed. In an interview with the Atlantic last year, Ms Clinton was hugely supportive of Israel in the wake of the Gaza conflict and presented positions on Iran that were much closer to Israel's than the one currently espoused by the Obama administration.

Right now, however, she seems to be putting her criticism of Mr Obama's foreign policy behind her in favour of what looks like a non-aggression pact. She cautiously endorsed the Lausanne agreement, saying that "diplomacy deserves a chance", while Mr Obama said of her candidacy that she "would make an excellent president".

Mr Netanyahu all but personally endorsed the Republican candidate in the 2012 poll, Mitt Romney. This time around he will almost certainly be more circumspect, especially as Ms Clinton - not known for forgiveness - is likely to be much more swift in exacting retribution than Mr Obama, should she win in November 2016.

Unlike the Democrats, among whom Ms Clinton is already seen as the frontrunner, the Republican field is wide open. Mr Netanyahu's supporter, casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, is also one of the biggest donors to the GOP and is being courted by all the main prospective Republican candidates, with the exception of Rand Paul. So far he has not publicly expressed a preference, but sharp-eyed readers of Yisrael Hayom, the Netanyahu-supporting freesheet bankrolled by Mr Adelson, have noticed that Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who announced his candidacy this week, has been getting favourable coverage there.

November 24, 2016 23:26

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