Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu crossed the Rubicon on Thursday. In kowtowing to America’s authoritarian president by refusing to allow two female congresswoman from entering Israel, Netanhayu made clear that his country can no longer be considered democratic for as long as he remains in power.
Netanhayu sacrificed democracy for himself, something Donald Trump has done almost every day of his presidency. Netanhayu did what Trump wanted him to do — ban two American politicians whom Trump hates — in order to keep the autocrat on his side as Israelis head to the polls soon in legislative elections that could further weaken Netanhayu.
Netanhayu’s government defended the decision to bar Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar because they endorse the BDS movement that calls for widespread boycotts of Israel. That logic smacks of Trump: shut down any voice that doesn’t agree with his.
Although there is no First Amendment type article in Israel, the courts firmly endorse free speech. So, too, do outside authorities. The Democracy Index placed Israel 30th out of almost 170 nations in its 2018 report, an important indicator that multiple voices are allowed to be heard throughout the country.
Netanhayu trampled on the idea of allowing Israeli critics an opportunity to reach the Israeli media and people. Of course Trump is proud of what Netanhayu did; Trump builds barriers instead of bridges and supports denying free speech.
When Netanhayu’s political record is reviewed by historians, his decision to prevent two American female politicians from entering Israel will not be ignored. On Thursday, Netanhayu made clear he doesn’t care about legacy; he cares only about himself.