The ‘Trumpenyahu’ phenomenon

During the last 2 ½ months that I have been living in New York (and visiting Boston last weekend), I have been asked over and over again by colleagues and friends: Who is worse? Netanyahu or Trump? Who is doing more damage to his democracy? Who is consistently and purposefully destroying the so-called “Peace Process”?  Who is attacking leftists and the free press more, with unprecedented venom and animosity? Who lies so often that they would not know the truth even if they stumbled upon it? Who is supporting and befriending dictators and demagogues and disputed personalities around the world, in Hungary, Saudi Arabia and other places?

The answer, of course, is both of them. Both of these reactionary and rejectionist “leaders” are doing all of these things, and much more, every day, in every way that they can, in their disastrous foreign and domestic policies, in their insulting, hate-filled tweets which pollute the social media in their countries and around the world all the time, in their specious speeches and statements which they make so often with a smirk , to the delight of their delirious political bases, which apparently love their toughness and their debauchery. Despite all the scandals surrounding them, and threatening to bring them down and embarrass them in front of their peoples and the world, they continue to promote divisiveness and hatred at almost every possible opportunity, both locally and internationally.

One of their unique achievements — to the delight of Christian evangelical supporters in America and Jewish evangelicals on the extreme right all over Israel and especially in the West Bank — is the virtual decimation of what was left of the Peace Process. Trump (I have trouble calling him by his title “President” because I still can’t believe it happened) has done just about everything possible to alienate the Palestinian leadership by totally supporting the rejectionist policies of Netanyahu and his government on Jerusalem and just about everything else, thus completely abandoning the role of “honest broker” which had been the hallmark of American diplomacy for decades, thus enabling peace accords with Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the past.

Trump, with the assistance of his loyal settler supporter Ambassador David Friedman and other cronies, including his son-in law, Jared Kushner, has offended the Palestinians by his one-sided recognition of Jerusalem, his cutting off funding to UNRWA, thus creating more poverty and thereby promoting more terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza, and his cutting off funds to programs that promote peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis through the CMM (Conflict Mitigation and Management) program of USAID in the region.  These shameful and inflammatory acts have only one meaning: they want to show his base that he is “pro-Israel” and anti-Palestinian, and not “pro peace.” In fact, he is the most anti-peace president that America has had in decades, if not ever. Despite his boastful and laughable idea to develop “the ultimate peace plan” between Israelis and Palestinians, he is doing the opposite all the time, and apparently has no real intention of promoting any workable peace plan.

Of course, he is bolstered in his policy — or is it just another one of his non-policies? — by Netanyahu and Bennett and Lieberman and most of the embarrassing right-wing government ministers in Israel everyday, by their statements and their acts. Just as Trump bought Netanyahu’s antagonistic position on Iran by pulling out of the nuclear agreement with them, so too he is basically accepting most of the anti-peace propositions of the most right-wing government in Israeli history: NO to any serious attempt to reach a long-term truce with Gaza, through back channel talks mediated by another government, NO to any effective effort to rekindle peace negotiations that might actually lead to some progress, and YES to always shifting the blame to the other side. This a subversive   way to perpetually stall, allowing the status quo of occupation and oppression of another people to go on without any end in sight, promoting willy-nilly the facts on the ground of creeping annexation, which will ultimately prevent any peace plan from happening , not to mention the irreparable damage being done every day to Israel’s once liberal democracy.

Who is worse? Who is more dangerous? Who is more destructive to democracy? And who is more obstructionist to peace?

It’s a close call, but I suggest that it is both of them, separately and together, who are creating this two-headed monster which some people are calling “Trumpenyahu.” I don’t remember who invented this term for them in the press, but I think it is a very accurate and apt one. They are indeed a disastrous duo.

The major question is: can they be stopped? Will they go to jail or prison for corruption?  And/or will the electorates in America and Israel finally wake up and someday elect more responsible leaders?

In America, there is a huge anti-Trump wave which is trying very hard to elect a democratic House of Representatives in November, and let’s hope it will happen, and signal the beginning of the end.

But we don’t see this happening in Israel yet, since elections are “far away,” i.e., next year. We can only hope that somehow the center-left will get their act together in time to finally put an end to the Netanyahu hold on the premiership after more than ten years of leading Israel down the path of growing international isolation, greater limitations on democracy, and constantly promoting the War Process rather than the Peace Process.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttlefield, in September 2017. He is currently working on a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine.