Israelis launch their own tea party ahead of US elections
Allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rooting for a Democratic defeat, held an inaugural tea party rally Sunday night.
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Efforts to restart negotiations, in limbo over a dispute concerning Israel's renewed settlement building in the West Bank, have taken a lower profile during the final weeks before the Nov. 2 midterm elections. Many expect a renewed push once the political fallout is known.Skip to next paragraph
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Why Israelis have adopted US campaign tactics – again
The Israeli tea party rally, which featured handmade "Say No to Obama" signs, appeared to be a project of Likud's ideological faction, a group which has tried to block party leaders like Netanyahu and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from curtailing Israeli settlements.
The tea party launch is the latest local attempt to adapt popular American political campaigns for local consumption: In the 2009 parliamentary elections local parties seized on the Obama campaign’s slogans, online strategies, and the iconic "Hope" portrait of then-candidate Obama.
Former Likud parliament member Michael Kleiner, who came up with the idea for an Israeli tea party, praised the US movement as a "model" capable of intimidating a president whose peace policy has brought "zero-percent usefulness" and "100 percent terror."
Kleiner also reiterated opposition to a new freeze in settlement building, which the Obama administration has called for.
"We are making a call to Obama, that this is a tea party of the people of Israel," said Mr. Kleiner. "[Obama] is making an unprecedented attempt to coerce us to adopt the policy which the public rejected. I think we're here to deflect that pressure."
Kleiner said that he is organizing tea parties elsewhere in Israel to pressure Netanyahu against concessions to Obama. He added that American tea party leaders had been in contact with them, but there's no collaboration at this stage.
Blunt words against Obama
Israelis, many of whom view the president as a Middle East novice and more inclined to back Arab states, have been critical of Obama’s approach to the region. Like the tea party movement in the US, Israel’s far right has used unusually blunt rhetoric against Obama, depicting him with a kaffiyeh and calling him a Palestinian "agent."
Similar sentiment was on display at the tea party press conference on Sunday. Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron regional settler council, grouped Obama with leaders throughout history who, he said, took "extreme" actions against the Jewish people that backfired.
"Who is Obama?" he asked. "We will continue to survive in spite of him."