As an American-Israeli, my heart broke twice during the assault on democracy in Washington, DC.
The riots on Capitol Hill are a direct result of four years of Trump’s willing enablers in the Republican Party and their various related media outlets. Four people are dead. Vice President Mike Pence has not convened the Cabinet to invoke Article 25 removing Trump as president, even a sitting president of the United States of America who stoked an attempted undermining of the Constitution, resulting in loss of life. The tokenism of watching Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and the vice president finally stand up to President Trump two weeks before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in is no source of comfort when compared to their enabling Donald Trump’s anti-democratic behavior for the past four years.
So the American side of my heart is broken for the weakening American civil discourse and democratic institutions by the complicity of over 70 million Americans who bought into Trump’s anti-democratic narrative and candidacy.
The Israeli side of my broken heart is not only feeling the pain of America, but also because our prime minister was the last of Israeli leadership to speak up against the riots. And it was only because US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was in Jerusalem and they held a joint press conference on a different topic but had to address the events at the Capitol. And hanging over the silence of Binyamin Netanyahu is the cloud of the incitement that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, which enabled the eventual rise of Netanyahu to Trump-like status among lawmakers and media that have enabled the undermining of civil discourse and democratic institutions in Israel.
When Netanyahu’s trial does finally get going in earnest, or when he is found guilty, or is recused by the attorney-general or High Court from forming a government or becoming president, are we sure that Israeli diehard supporters aren’t going to storm the High Court or Knesset?
And so as America prepares for a relatively peaceful transfer of power, Israel heads again to the polls because the prime minister refused to pass a budget, a condition-precedent in the coalition agreement for avoiding more elections. Just as the Knesset lists close, the prime minister will be on trial. The attacks on Israel’s democratic institutions are going to increase, especially the legitimacy of the courts and the rule of law.
And so the question is who are the enablers of the continued deterioration of Israel’s democracy and what can we learn from the recent although brief shutting down of Congress?
Unfortunately, the key lesson is that there was no penalty for law-makers and media outlets that fanned the Trump flames; they all get to denounce the riots while holding onto their seats and market shares. The next American congressional elections are in two years, so there are no repercussions now for the 113 Republicans that embarrassingly went to challenge the electoral college results. That is why even with two weeks left until Inauguration, Trump has to be removed by his Cabinet. Otherwise, there are essentially no consequences for anti-democratic behavior and the resultant loss of life.
The prime minister and his people are watching closely and the lesson learned has not been lost on them. This election cycle, therefore, will be our most dangerous, unless Israeli voters punish at the polls all the enablers from the past five years of the assault on Israel’s democratic institutions and civil discourse.