When House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress, the plan was intended to boost their collective ambitions. Boehner would use Netanyahu to undermine President Obama and his foreign policy, while Netanyahu would use Boehner to improve his own re-election prospects and condemn international nuclear talks he opposes.
Almost immediately, the gambit backfired. In the United States, Republicans created a real controversy by partnering with a foreign official to undercut an American president. In Israel, Netanyahu divided the public by jeopardizing the country's relationship with its most reliable ally.
The consequences of the misstep are still unfolding. Take the latest poll
of Israeli voters, less than a week from their national elections, for example.
Isaac Herzog's Zionist Union has maintained its 24-to-21-seat lead against Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in the Knesset Channel's latest poll, suggesting that the prime minister's speech to Congress last week hasn't buoyed his party before the March 17 election. [...] Zionist Union is the joint slate of Herzog's Labor Party and Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah. The station's previous poll came out just before Netanyahu's speech to the U.S. Congress a week ago.
In case it's not obvious, any set of national elections are going to be multi-faceted, and it's difficult to draw a straight line between the prime minister's congressional address and his reduced support in Israel. That said, the polling suggests Netanyahu was in better shape, politically, before last week's controversial U.S. trip.
It was not uncommon to hear prominent American voices suggest in recent weeks that the Israeli prime minister speaks for all of Israel -- and indeed, all Jewish people everywhere -- and it's somehow offensive for anyone to criticize his policy vision. It was a silly argument at the time, which looks increasingly foolish now.
At least Netanyahu can take some comfort in knowing he's wildly popular in the United States, right? Actually, no
A new poll released on Tuesday shows American support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faded after his controversial congressional address on March 3. The latest Gallup survey shows Netanyahu with a 38 percent favorability rating, down 7 percentage points from a similar poll in February. And his unfavorability rating is higher, up 5 percentage points to 29 percent in the same time period.
Much of the shift is the result of the prime minister's falling support among Democrats, who were apparently unimpressed with his controversial GOP partnership.
In recent weeks, conservative media declared Benjamin Netanyahu the "leader of the free world" over
again. It would appear most Americans, and an increasing number of Israelis, believe otherwise.