The latest law about the right to carry weapons in Israel is a symbol of the sad symbiosis between Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel, an Israel that is also more and more aligned with illiberal democracies such as Poland or Hungary.
The similarities between Trump and Netanyahu are stunning, and they are reflected with the almost complete similar views held by the GOP and the Likud Party, both parties now far far away from where they were standing less than 10 years ago.
Since then, both the Likud Party and the GOP have been taken over by demagogues who incite, insult, openly appealing to the worst instincts, who speak to fans and supporters more than to people they want to convince.
The GOP was the party of Lincoln or Reagan, one man who ended slavery and the other who embraced immigration and saw America as a “shining city of the Hill”
The Likud Party was the party of Menahem Begin, whose commitment to democracy, the rule of law and respect of the minorities’ rights were never in doubt, despite his clear right-wing stance about the territories.
These two parties have legitimate heirs: in the USA, the Bush family, John Kasich or Jeff Flake. In Israel, President Rivlin remains the voice of reason of the True Likud, or Benny Begin, both an ideological and blood heir of the late Menahem Begin.
In the two countries, these parties have been taken over by more dubious figures: Trump himself of course, Sarah Palin, Joe Arpaio who are the true inspirers of the GOP’s base, and in Israel people like Miri Regev, Oren Hazan or David Amsalem, whose lack of gravitas or knowledge are a badge of honor.
These two once-respected parties have become parties of angry and tribal supporters, unable to reason and respect their adversaries, following blindly their leaders without ever questioning them. It has nothing to do but ideology, everything to do with simplistic views.
Both parties are driven today by the hatred toward the media and the rule of law, incitement against minorities, respect for authoritarian leaders, despise for the European Union, and a full embrace of conspiracy theories, seeing no longer opponents to debate and win over but traitors everywhere. Dissent is not tolerated, it is treason that must be crushed.
Both leaders are surrounded by scandals, corruption, and their only way is doubling down on the outrage and going each time further to rally their base and save themselves, at all cost.
In this quest for survival, they could not care less about their countries’ standing after they are gone: it is about them, and them only. There was nothing of importance before them, and the hell with the future.
There are two big differences though: Netanyahu has a full grasp and understanding of the complexities of the world, he is just extremely cynical about it, and uses every possible trick at his disposal to move his agenda forward. Trump is an ignorant demagogue who does not know what he’s talking about, proud to say he never reads and learns and only trusts his instincts.
This major difference explains why the 2nd difference is so infuriating: Netanyahu must be fully aware that Israel’s importance and standing in the world are nothing compared to the United States’. When Trump is gone, in the case he has not caused a total apocalypse, the US will still be a superpower: weakened, somewhat isolated, with a problem of credibility, but with an able president, the relationships could be repaired abroad and the country strengthened inside, with a revision of the Constitution to strengthen the country for instance.
Israel will remain a small country, surrounded by enemies, while occupying territories. And I can bet that Netanyahu’s arrogance in the age of Trump will not be forgiven easily by the European Union.
And, possibly worse, Netanyahu’s full embrace of Trump will have definitively alienated the vast majority of American Jews that are, for 70%, self-identified liberal democrats, affiliated to reform or conservative movements, and who massively despise Trump.
Israel’s standing in the world may look strong now, but it may well be an illusion: a more balanced US Administration in the future, especially to erase the calamity of the Trump administration, will have to send other messages vis a vis the Palestinians for instance, and distancing itself from the right-wing Israeli government will be a part of the reset that will be badly needed.
And the American Jews will be nowhere to save Israel, because they will have had enough with Bibi and his government. Israel will no longer a bipartisan cause after the Trump-Bibi alliance, itself following the infamous embrace of Romney during the 2012 campaign and, much worse, the calamitous Netanyahu’s speech in Congress in 2015 against the Iran deal, against President Obama.
Israel has not become the 51st State of America, but if it were, it would surely be a red state now. The parallel paths of the Likud and the GOP are striking, and they represent a very grave danger for Israel in the future, given the solid grasp of the Likud party in Israel, and its near-total alignment with a GOP that has ceased to be the Grand Old Party to become the Trump Party.
I am not really sure that betting on the support of the “Start-up Nation of the Jewish people” by evangelical conservatives and the rural counties of the USA, not necessarily the best friends of the Jews, was really the vision of the founding fathers of Zionism…