With less than 24 hours before Israeli's go to the polls, signs are mounting that the coalition against embattled Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu will emerge triumphant in the race for seats in the 120-member Knesset (parliament).
Should such a scenario take place, "Bibi" will be replaced as prime minister by "Bougie" — Isaac (Bougie) Herzog, 54, leader of the Labor Party and heir to a rich family tradition in politics.
Little known in the U.S., Herzog's possible election will almost surely bring a sigh of relief from the Obama White House which has long been at dagger's ends with Netanyahu.
"I can't stand him — he's a liar," then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy said of Netanyahu to Obama at the G-20 summit in November of 2011, not realizing the microphone was open.
The U.S. president replied: "What about me? I have to deal with him every day!" A year later, Netanyahu made little secret of his hope that old friend Mitt Romney would defeat Obama.
The latest flare-up, of course, was Netanyahu accepting an invitation to address the U.S. Congress.
It was no surprise that Jeremy Bird, a top operative in President Obama's 2008 and '12 campaigns, has been mobilizing the get-out-the-vote effort for Herzog and coalition partner Tzipi Livni, leader of the small Hatnua (The Movement) Party and former foreign minister.
Under their agreement, Herzog will serve as prime minister for two years and then pass the office to Livni, making her Israel's second woman prime minister after Golda Meir.
If the final pre-election polls by the respected Yediot Aharonet newspaper and two other media outlets are accurate, the Zionists United coalition will win 26 seats to 22 for Netanyahu's Likud (conservative) Party and the remainder divided among parties ranging from a coalition of Arabs to ultra-orthodox religious parties.
Noting that an Israeli Channel 10 news poll less than three weeks ago showed Zionists United and Likud in a dead heat for seats in parliament, more than a few observers of Israeli politics sense that the last minute "tidal wave" could portend a resounding margin for the opponents of three-time Prime Minister Netanyahu.
In 1992, a similar last-minute trend toward the opposition Labor Party resulted in their winning the second-highest number of seats of any party since Israeli's founding in 1948 and the return of Labor leader and retired Gen. Yitzhak Rabin to the prime ministership. Three years later, at the height of his popularity, Rabin was gunned down by an assassin's bullet.
Much like Jeb Bush, "Bougie" Herzog has been preceded by several family members in high positions, his father Chaim Herzog was president of Israel from 1983-93 and his uncle was Abba Eban, who was Israel's United Nations ambassador and foreign minister and known for his polished Oxford accent and erudite remarks. The Palestinians, he once said, "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
Candidate Herzog, Cornell graduate and onetime military intelligence officer, called Netanyahu's address to the U.S. Congress last week without the invitation of President Obama "a mistake." Where Netanyahu has made opposition to a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran the lodestar of his campaign, Herzog says: "I trust Obama to get a good deal." He has also vowed to "re-ignite" talks with the Palestinian that stalled under Netanyahu.
To charges that a "Prime Minister Herzog" would not be tough enough dealing with Iran or other neighboring enemies of Israel, his campaign counters with TV spots showing the candidate in his army uniform and proclaiming him "a measured and responsible leader."
Moreover, such figures as Dan Meridor, a onetime Likud leader and Cabinet minister under Netanyahu, and retired Gen. Omer Bar-Lev, son of a heroic general and himself a past commander of the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal, have weighed in for Herzog's credentials as a potential commander-in-chief.
Going back to his days as Israel's U.N. ambassador, "Bibi" Netanyahu came to know many Americans in official Washington who now call him a friend.
After Tuesday, if the polls in Israel are accurate, officially Washington will start looking for any Americans it can find who know "Bougie" Herzog and call him a friend.
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