Tension between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama could stray into party politics next month, ahead of Israel’s election.
Analysts spotted signs that the two men’s grudge had become personal this week, as key Obama lieutenants were seen schmoozing Netanyahu’s chief political rival.
Netanyahu has sought to establish his own credentials by showing that he is tough on security, pushing American policymakers to veto a deal on Iran.
As part of his campaign for a new right-wing mandate on 17 March, Netanyahu last month angered the White House by accepting a Republican invitation to address the US Congress without first consulting Obama.
The diplomatic snub was met by a frosty response, with US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Vice-President Joe Biden happy to be seen engaging with Netanyahu’s centrist opponent Isaac Herzog at a conference in Munich last week. It follows their refusal to meet Netanyahu during his March visit.
It has long been US policy not to wade into Israeli elections, but Obama may feel the Israeli incumbent does not share the same principles, Netanyahu having been seen to back Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012.
Herzog this week leapt on his meetings with US leaders who are unwilling to meet Netanyahu by acknowledging the importance of countries’ “relationship of trust.”
With only weeks to go before Israelis go to the polls, Netanyahu’s Likud this week upped the ante, laying into the Zionist Union – an amalgamation between Herzog’s Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua. On Facebook, Netanyahu said Herzog and his former justice minister Livni would offer a “weak and submissive” future, and in a widely-criticised new video, portrays their party as letting ISIS into Israel.