Four summers ago, when Barack Obama landed in Israel, one of the country's most popular papers headlined the event, "Obamania" and reported that he was greeted "like a rock star." This past weekend, Mitt Romney was not received in Israel as a rock star. The Hebrew headlines on his arrival noted his close friendship with Benjamin Netanyahu—and that he bombed in London. By the time he left, Romney managed to shift attention to his hawkish positions on Iran, but also to his breaches of American and Israeli political manners. His partnership with the Israeli prime minister was even more conspicuous than when he came.
If Mitt Romney visits Israel this summer, it's a safe guess that his tour will avoid demonstrations against the government's economic policies. When Mitt and Bibi dine together, the Israeli prime minister probably won't show clips of riot cops dragging away Daphni Leef, the woman who ignited the economic protests, as she tries to re-establish a tent encampment in downtown Tel Aviv.
We mortals are not privy to a transcript of the meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama. If we had one, it would not show whether the Israeli prime minister relaxed enough to smile at one of the president's jokes, or how long Netanyahu paused before answering if and when Obama said, "Do not start a war with Iran. Period." There was no joint statement afterward, reportedly because the American side knew in advance that the leaders did not agree on enough to fill a respectable press release. According to the leak from Netanyahu's team to every Israeli news organization, the prime minister told Obama that Israel had not yet decided whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
Gershom Gorenbergsays Netanyahu's new public-relations effort is a desperate push to sell his same old policies.
Before he went into government service, Benjamin Netanyahu was a furniture marketing executive. His first public-sector job was as an Israeli diplomat posted in the United States, for which he spent much of his time promoting Israel's image. His approach to politics was shaped by his experience as a salesman: You can sell people the product that you want to sell as long as the packaging is what the customer wants to buy. And when sales slip, boost advertising.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to formally ask President Obama to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. Read Spencer Ackerman, who knows about these things, for some context to this story, which includes, rather interestingly, the Center for American Progress' national security expert Larry Korb.