Israel’s elections are tomorrow, and the last polling there shows the outcome is uncertain -- and that Netanyahu’s Likud Party could possibly lose. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned supporters at a rally here Sunday that he and his Likud party may not win Tuesday’s election, a potentially dramatic fall for a consummate political survivor whose nine years in office transformed him into the public face of contemporary Israel,” the Washington Post writes. “A loss by Netanyahu — or a razor-thin win and the prospect that he would be forced to enter into an unwieldy “government of national unity” with his rivals — would mark a sobering reversal for Israel’s security hawks, in a country where the electorate has been moving steadily rightward for the past 15 years. The final round of opinion polls Friday showed Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party facing a surprisingly strong challenge by Isaac Herzog, leader of the center-left Labor Party, and his running mate, former peace negotiator Tzipi Livni, who hold a small but steady lead.” More: “Netanyahu charged in a radio interview Sunday that hostile Israeli journalists and shadowy ‘foreign powers’ were behind an anti-Netanyahu campaign that could be his undoing.”
Netanyahu losing wouldn’t be good news for U.S. hawks on Iran
It’s unclear the exact impact that Netanyahu losing on Tuesday could have on U.S. domestic politics, especially when it comes to the Iran nuclear debate. But it wouldn’t be good news for hawks. Think about it: Netanyahu comes to the U.S. Congress to make his final argument -- on Iran, against President Obama’s foreign policy -- and his party loses what had seemed to be a winnable election? Right or wrong, Netanyahu getting involved in domestic U.S. politics would be blamed for the surprising loss. So tomorrow is going to be a big story.
Will Senate Democrats defy Obama White House on Iran deal?
Regarding the Washington debate over the Iran talks, Politico writes that it’s increasingly likely that Democrats could buck the White House. “Even as the White House ramps up pressure on Congress to stay out of its negotiations with Iran on a nuclear agreement, Republicans are on the brink of veto-proof majorities for legislation that could undercut any deal. And that support has held up even after the uproar last week over the GOP’s letter to Iranian leaders warning against an agreement.” On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) -- as loyal of an ally to Obama as you will find -- said he remained a co-sponsor of the legislation drafted by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker (R-TN) to ensure that Congress approves of any nuclear deal the U.S. (along with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) reaches with Iran. “The deal that is being negotiated with Iran is about what will Iran do to get out from other congressional sanctions,” Kaine said. “And so it is unrealistic to think that Congress is not going to be involved in looking at a final deal. I am a pro-diplomacy senator. And I supported the negotiations to this point. But any deal that touches upon the congressional statutory sanctions is going to get a review of Congress.”
What this debate is all about
Whether Congress gives the White House until June for a final-final deal: Here was the letter that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough sent to Corker over the weekend: “If we successfully negotiate a framework by the end of this month, and a final deal by the end of June, we expect a robust debate in Congress.” So what the White House is saying: Debate and pass legislation not after a framework is reached (in March), but after final-final approval (June).
Per the BBC, “President Vladimir Putin has appeared in public for the first time since 5 March, quelling intense speculation about his health. He was meeting President of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev, in St Petersburg. Commenting on the rumours about his health, Mr Putin said ‘things would be boring without gossip.’”
Granite State of Mind
Here’s the dispatch by MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt on the GOP campaigning over the weekend in New Hampshire: “Jeb Bush embraced the Live Free or Die state’s freewheeling politics. Scott Walker mostly bunkered down in private meetings. Ted Cruz was the keynote speaker at a county dinner that featured an auction of the likely candidates’ neckties. Rick Perry toured the far north of the state, trying in relative obscurity to resurrect himself. Over the weekend in New Hampshire, it was clear: The 2016 Republican presidential primary is wide open – and well underway, even without declared candidates.”
Will Gowdy’s Benghazi committee also interview David Petraeus?
On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Rep. Trey Gowdy -- who chairs the select congressional committee on Benghazi -- gave a striking answer to the question whether his committee would ALSO want to interview former CIA Director David Petraeus in addition to Hillary Clinton. To us, it seemed like he and his committee hadn’t truly considered interviewing Petraeus, whose agency had as important of a role in Benghazi as the State Department did. “Well, we would very much like to talk to General Petraeus,” Gowdy said. “As you know, he has been otherwise engaged for the past several months [regarding his recent plea deal]. And I'll be curious to see the details of the agreement that he reached with the government, if it includes a cooperation paragraph, then certainly, we would consider our committee to be worthy of that cooperation. But we have not scheduled his appearance yet. But clearly, he's someone else we need to talk to if we want to understand fully what happened before, during, and after Benghazi.” If you are TRULY interested in getting to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi, there are two central figures -- Clinton and Petraeus. So interviewing only one of them puts the GOP in a public-relations box.
Gowdy: “I have no interest … in having this conversation in 2016”
Also on “Meet,” Gowdy was asked what his committee hopes to find that five other investigative committees and groups hadn’t yet found on Benghazi. Gowdy’s answer: “Well, I can't tell you what's been missed, I can just tell you this. We interviewed nine witnesses so far this year that no other committee of jurisdiction has interviewed. We are looking at documents that no other committee of jurisdiction reviewed. No other committee interviewed Susan Rice. No other committee interviewed Secretary Clinton. No other committee interviewed all of the witnesses that were on the ground in Benghazi. So we've been asked to write the final, definitive accounting. It may or may not corroborate what other committees have done. But frankly, corroborating other people's work is not too much to ask when you have four murdered Americans. So I'm not on a hunt to necessarily debunk or correct what other people have done. Even if you corroborate it, it's worth your time.” When asked if his committee’s work will be completed BEFORE 2016 – so as not to interfere with the presidential election – he replied, “I have no interest, zero interest, in you and I having this conversation in 2016. But I don't get to fully decide how quickly it's done. I need some cooperation from the people who have access to the witnesses and the information.”
Michigan Republicans look to change -- err, rig -- the Electoral College system
Last week, Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel reported on GOP legislation in Michigan that would change how the state awards its 16 electoral votes – from winner to take all, to one electoral vote per the winner of each congressional district, plus two votes to statewide winner. Weigel: “Had this system been in place in 2012, Mitt Romney would have lost Michigan by nearly 450,000 of 4.7 million votes, but walked away with nine of the state's 16 electoral votes.” As we said when states like Pennsylvania were considering similar changes in 2011, if you’re looking to change the rules of the game, you’re admitting your party can’t win under the current rules.