Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's newest campaign ad features a few seconds from his March 3 speech to Congress on the US-Iran talks, in an apparent attempt to use the speech to boost his political standing. Netanyahu's party faces a tough challenge in the Israeli national elections, to be held on March 17.
It's a brief clip, and none of the actual language from the speech is shown in the ad — the speech was in English, and the ad is in Hebrew. But it's clear in context that the footage from America is designed to demonstrate Netanyahu's gravitas and statesmanlike qualities.
This, of course, doesn't mean that Netanyahu's speech to Congress was a cynical political ploy all along. Netanyahu's strong opposition to Obama's Iran talks goes back some time, suggesting the speech really was an earnest attempt to torpedo the ongoing negotiations.
But the ad also validates the Obama administration's concerns about Netanyahu's speech. One of the White House's objections to the speech — and the stated reason Obama wouldn't meet with Netanyahu while he was in DC — is that they didn't want to seem like they were taking sides in the Israeli election this close to the vote. In light of the ad, that concern seems even more reasonable.
Netanyahu could use a boost. The most recent polls show his party falling behind his principal opponent, the Zionist Union's Isaac Herzog, in an election that's focusing a bit more on economic and cost-of-living issues than on security.
This comment from an ordinary Israeli voter, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, summarizes the point nicely:
"He's talking about something that isn't relevant — Iran and ISIS,'' Avi Biton, a snack bar owner, told the Journal. "Today my kids don't have the ability to settle down and buy a house. If they can't do that, this country has no reason to exist."