Foreign heads of state have no place in U.S. elections

Is Bibi stumping for Mitt?

Some in the punditocracy have questioned whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has inserted himself into American electoral politics.

He denies it, but circumstantial evidence exists for the charge.

Recently, Netanyahu has pressed the Obama administration to draw a “red line” in front of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He would like to see the United States declare its willingness — perhaps even eagerness — to attack Iran by a certain date if that country does not stand down.

This put President Barack Obama on the defensive. When he refused to draw a red line, it triggered criticism from his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. Score one for Team Romney, with an assist from Netanyahu.

In a political ad now airing in Florida and produced by a pro-Romney super PAC, Netanyahu is featured front and center decrying global inaction on the Iranian issue. “The world tells Israel, wait there’s still time,” Netanyahu says in the ad. “And I say, wait for what?”

And by “world,” he surely means the U.S. president.

This came on the heels of a diplomatic flap involving Obama supposedly refusing to meet with Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to New York this week for the U.N. General Assembly. Both sides claimed no visit had been requested and none denied. Yet a sense of ongoing frostiness between the two leaders lingered.

That, along with the drumbeat of alarm over a perceived deterioration of U.S.-Israeli relations, as asserted by Republicans and some Jewish leaders, added to the partisan outcry.

Jews are not single-issue voters. Yes, Israel matters deeply, but Jews cast their votes based on a variety of concerns, Middle East politics being only one of them.

Netanyahu stated clearly to CNN that some might attempt to “draw me into the American election, and I’m not going to do that.”

These were the right words, but they won’t stop campaigns from seeking to score political points using Netanyahu as their poster child. No foreign leader, even the head of a friendly nation like Israel, should come down on one side or the other of a U.S. election.

The truth is the United States has been Israel’s greatest ally with Obama in the White House, and will remain so no matter who wins in November. Netanyahu should not, must not, pick sides in this election. We’ll decide it for ourselves.