By Michael Friedson, The Media Line

That skin gets thinner and nuance more pronounced when elections are imminent is apparent once again with Israel’s general election less than a month away. Arguably, the theme of the April 9th race is “Can anyone beat Bibi?” — the incumbent for the past decade. A recurring theme in Israeli elections is the extent to which an American president is willing to invest in an Israeli candidate by using a number of methods of support that come with the job. At the moment, attention is fixed on a planned visit this week to Israel and other Middle Eastern nations by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Critics insist an official visit by such a high-level guest is interpreted as an unmistakable nod in favor of Prime Minister Netanyahu. That belief is strengthened by the State Department’s briefing on Friday that listed the issues to be discussed as “Iran, anti-Semitism and regional energy issues.”

Skeptics point out that Netanyahu and Pompeo were just together at the Warsaw conference on Middle East peace and both are going to be at the annual convention of a large pro-Israel support group in Washington, so extolling the need for this week’s visit is a stretch at best. Not mentioned is the shared support base that is the center and right-of-center American ex-patriate who typically lives in Israel and votes in both Israel and the United States. That class of voter responds positively to the Netanyahu – Trump defense policies including Iran and are becoming strongly engaged in the debates over the rhetoric of some of the new class of lawmakers – rhetoric denounced by many as being unadulterated anti-Semitic tripe. Leaving the U.S. to mount the pulpit during a foreign visit allows for an opportunity to make the case unchallenged. Invoking diplo-speak – [“Secretary Pompeo is visiting Netanyahu ‘in his capacity as prime minister’’] the SecState will avoid the optics of appearing with other candidates and making them appear prime ministerial. Continue Reading…