Jeffrey Herf

A Cause for Celebration in the United States and in Israel

The citizens of Israel can rejoice at the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Again, as has not been the case the last four years, Israel will have an ally in the White House who also has the respect of the liberal democracies that share the values on which Israel was established. The lies and conspiracy theories of Trumpism were a disaster for Israel’s well-being.

I am among those who viewed the reelection of Trump as posing a serious threat of authoritarian rule in the United States. The checks and balances would not have worked for another four years. The government would have been purged of independent minded civil servants. The attack on the free press would have intensified. The rule of law would have been smashed and the Department of Justice used to persecute political enemies. The virus would spiral totally out of control. There would have been no action on climate change. The issues of racial injustice, policing and polarization would not have been addressed. The democratic legitimacy of our government would have been eroded if, yet again, we had a President who lost the popular vote, this time by over four million votes. The effort to contain and deter Iran, contrary to the claims of Trump’s ideologues, would have been undermined and Iran’s march to the bomb enhanced as the United States sunk deeper into isolation and irrelevance.

Make no mistake, despite Trump’s support for the agenda of the Israeli right, he unleashed the poison of conspiracy thinking in American politics. Given another four years, I have no doubt that “America First” would eventually lead to a turn against Israel and would certainly fan the flames of antisemitism in the United States as well. Conversely, a Biden administration will surprise skeptical Israelis by striking a balance that departs from Trumpism but also differs from some of the tone of the Obama years. The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris constitutes a huge plus for Israel’s security. It will, I am sure, lead to a reinvigoration of Israel’s ties very broad sections of the American public.

So yesterday was a day to celebrate. The other America wrote articles, spent time on phone banks, donated money, marched and then VOTED!!! The result is that at last, we have a President we can be proud of, who won’t infuriate and embarrass us every single day, who won’t utter lies with his every utterance, who won’t attack the institutions of our liberal democracy, insult our allies, pal around dictators, dismiss modern science, attack the free press and spread conspiracy theories while tens of thousands of our fellow citizens died of the virus. At last a man of decency and intelligence, of compassion and common sense, a man who will seek to bring out the best, rather than the worst, in all of us. And a Vice-President who also brings all those qualities to the office as well. This is a huge relief and cause for celebration amidst the sobering reality of those many votes for Trump. The future looks much brighter.

Jeffrey Herf is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park.

About the Author
Jeffrey Herf is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. He has published extensively on modern German and European history including Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, He is completing a study entitled “At War with Israel: East Germany and the West German Radical Left, 1967-1989" (Cambridge University Press, 2016). His "Israel's Moment: The United States and Europe between the Holocaust and the Cold War" is forthcoming.
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