Anti Establishment is a potent force — Ask BIbi Netanyahu

Israeli politics are a very sensitive issue, as we all know. You have to be hundred percent for or against, nothing in between. But what about American politics?. Well, gone with the famous American claim to fame, that what makes American politics so different than that of so many other countries, Israel included, is that they are SO pragmatic, as part of the sacred principle of dialogue at all cost. Not any more, surely with the current state of play, with the Trump movement popularity. Movement it is, and not only because the Donald defines it as such, but mainly because it is spontaneous, populist and genuine. Movement is a word with a positive connotation , but this is somewhat misleading. Bad politicians took pride with the word movement attached to their parties. I will not dare mention any of them, and this is where I need to clarify in the clearest possible terms; I do NOT compare Trumpism to Fascism and/or Nazism, and I think that those who do it, need to learn one or two things about history. That said, there are alarming signs , and a leader calling to thousands of enthusiastic followers to raise their hands in a public pledge of allegiance is a VERY unpleasant sight for me, and with humility I believe, should be to every Jew. I already lost some Facebook friends over Trump, and while I am used to irritate friends with sometimes unexpected views[ask some of my old settler friends], I am truly thinking that the Trump movement can be analyzed and discussed without necessarily making arguments which may lead to unpalatable comparisons. So, this piece is ALL about the issue of anti establishment, and Trump is the champion of that currently, and that may be the key to his success , at least until now.

But , the story that I want to tell here, is about Bibi Netanyahu and his war with the establishment, which I consider to be the most dramatic success story of an anti establishment politician in the democratic world. Yes, a Prime Minister who is elected time and again and genuinely believes that he is the ultimate outsider. Bibi Netanyahu is winning elections, because he manages to hold together an electoral coalition which has so many inherent contradictions, and ONE very formidable cementing connection. It is my strong belief, that Mizrachim, Olim from the former Soviet Union and Religious Zionists are united on election day , simply because they are much opposed to the on-going pretension of the White Tribe to decide who is the real, good Israelis and what are the real, good Israeli values. They cling ever stronger to these pretensions in parallel to their declining numbers and their electoral defeats. The more that happens, the more frustrated they are, and some of them, a minority, but an increasing one, simply gives an emotional and ideological GET to the Zionist state. It is an alarming development among Liberal American Jews, and it is starting to gather momentum in Israel.

The white tribe lives in well -known places in Israel, they are mostly secular, Ashkenazi Jews, and they happen to believe in so much which is still, and hopefully will remain, part of the story of Zionism. They believe in the rule of law,

in the need to look for peace, in the desire to integrate Israeli Arabs in the state as full -fledged citizens, they want more economic equality, recognition of all the currents of Judaism, and pardon me if I omitted something here. By way of personal confession, These are all the values which I subscribe to. So where is the problem?. What is the problem?

Let us be very concrete here, no niceties of terminology and PC, rather the naked truth, and it is, that for many of them, all this can happen and SHOULD happen , ONLY if they are in power. It is , after all, THEIR state, isn’t it? . It is, that if there are people in Israel , who have different interpretations to the same values, they are the enemy. Democracy, dialogue, pluralism are in place, when WE are implementing them, when WE are in charge. Not ”them”, so Miri Rege cannot make decisions about culture, Naftali Bennett cannot about education and Netanyahu about basically everything…

It is this sense of being looked down at, which fuels so much of the frustrations of the Likud-led coalition, and this is a strong coalition which is here to stay, because the numbers are on its side, but much more importantly, the profound sense of self-righteousness which is the inevitable outcome of the feeling of humiliation. Bibi Netanyahu understands it and more importantly, Bibi Netanyahu genuinely feels it. He will never admit it, but he learnt it from the great Menachem Begin and the campaign of 1981. The late , brilliant Ehud Sprinzak, told Haim Yavin 20 years later, that Begin did not fabricate the anti establishment undertone of the 1981 campaign. Begin,Sprinzak said, REALLY felt the humiliation, and with his great political acumen, turned it into a formidable political movement. So does Bibi Netanyahu, and he ain’t Menachem Begin, who was, by far, a greater leader, but he learnt ”something” from the great man.

I do not know who is Trump mentor, and even if He is capable of accepting that he has a mentor. I hope that it is NOT Father Coughlin, and even mentioning this notorious, evil man, is a reason why I was so careful in the beginning of this piece. We are witnessing very sensitive times, and I, for one, am very cognizant of that.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina