Israeli social workers test parenting skills in many ways. One is to ask parents what differences they see between different children. A proper parent sees them each as the unique humans that they are.
Maybe we should also rate political journalist by their ability to differentiate between Trump and Netanyahu? Many prominent reporters and commentators don’t seem to have a clue. Rather, often they’re so stunned by (their epiphany of) some detailed similarities that that that becomes the main thing they notice, like here and here.
For full disclosure, I do like most of what Netanyahu stands for and dislike most of Trump’s goals. However, my objective is not to be fair to either of them; only to compare them.
There Are Striking Similarities
They are both smart men, the political leaders of their countries and Right-wing in the sense that they are the hope for the super-rich and don’t worry too much about marginalizing the poor. They each remarried, and are now with strong-minded wives.
But Look at the Differences!
I’ll give you a whole list of discrepancies, in no particular order and not claiming to be comprehensive. (I will leave out the priority they give to their own countries, because it is not a difference when Trump mainly cares for the US and Netanyahu for Israel. It is also unremarkable and therefore devote of meaning, like that they speak different languages.)
Leftist hatred. The Left hates Trump with a passion. Many see him as an undercover fascist or Satan incarnated. It’s encouraging and uplifting to see that finally, the American People starts to discover their political power and voice: organizing, writing via social media, demonstrating, rallying, calling their Senators.
Many on the Left in Israel call Netanyahu ultra-Right-wing, but it’s just rhetoric. They are mainly maliciously jealous of his success and unable to compromise, so that they can’t sit in a coalition with him. It’s a sad sight.
Lying. Trump says whatever suits him at that moment. An important part of his arsenal is distracting from really answering. He does not feel loyal to anything he said – if at all he remembers. He sadistically enjoys playing with people’s emotions. As soon as he says something nice, many swoon; the moment he says something nasty, many get all upset.
For Netanyahu, on the other hand, politics is like playing chess. Under his rules he can take back moves, even many moves. And he’s not going to give up under some stupid idea as: you touched, you move. But he learned from his first tenure when he fooled everyone and then was unseated, that political friends one wants to keep should not be crossed.
Hating the press. Trump thinks that a good press should serve him, or he’ll call them fake news (look who’s taking).
Netanyahu, for his part, knows that the press is an important power in a democracy and he tries to cooperate with them. He will not call them the hostile fake press, although at least one of them (Haaretz) actually is.
Oppressive ideas. Trump does not have a clue. He does not know the inaccuracy and hurtfulness of oppressive stereotypes. He really thinks that women are as good as they look, handicapped people are funny, blacks are poor but worthy of support, workers are stupid, Muslims are dangerous and middle-class are losers. He also, through personal experience, has soft spots for some groups: Jews and homosexual men – they are the best poodles and lap dogs. Train them a little and they’re better than attack dogs.
Netanyahu is in a different ball game altogether. He will forcefully and proudly counter any word or insinuation that women, handicapped people, Arabs, Muslims, workers, middle-class or homosexuals would be second-class. He might think that he can’t help them more because of his political realism and capitalism, but he does not stereotype people. He really thinks that racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. are despicable. (Many on the Left in Israel, in their arrogant conviction that they are the sole beholders of universal truth and a proper vision on redemption, often don’t check their oppressive attitudes and paradoxically in interpersonal contacts come out the most racist, sexist, you name it – while out-loud blaming the Right of being bigots.)
Political experience. Trump doesn’t know anything about politics, is very sharp and shoots from the hip and makes it up as he goes. He’s very flexible because he’s basically clueless – and lazy too. He is not proactive in getting or retaining the information.
Netanyahu, in contrast, is very knowledgeable, and not only about politics. He’s not only Israel’s longest sitting PM, and thus gained lots of knowledge and understanding on the job – he has a sharp political mind regardless of experience. And, he basis his course on possibility, power and popularity. He will walk the paths that will make him come out a winner. He’s not making it up as he goes. He’s a strategist.
Intellectually. Trump reads and speaks on the level of a ten-year old, max, with signs that his mental capacities are declining. He corrects his speech writers to make it sound more powerful, determined and simple – to take out lengthy words that he cannot pronounce. When he goes off script, he’s a real loose cannon. (He may even share top secrets.) With all his grotesque self-importance, he’s only a figurehead for the wealthy and ultra-conservative. He won for them the election, but they pray all day long that this clown will just do their bidding with as little circus as possible and not necessitate them to dump him prematurely.
And then there is Netanyahu. He reads books, and corrects his speech writers to make it sound more powerful, passionate and deep. He doesn’t preach as much to the People as PM Yitzchak Rabin did, but he loves to share his winning arguments. (But he won’t tell us everything he thinks.) He is well-connected with many wealthy people but he’s not anyone’s marionette.
Coalition. For Trump, all the other players in the political field are just there to support him or to learn that they should. And if they won’t, they are the enemy that needs to be fought.
This unlike Netanyahu, who does not care with whom he needs to work. He tries to get and find as much support as possible. He’s willing to work with any decent person who’ll enable him to continue. People who detach themselves from him or who start fighting him – their loss.
Opposition. Trump will either trash people or flatter them – there is nothing in between. When critiqued or attacked, he will defend not by explaining his innocence or good plans, but rather spend his time trashing his predecessors and competition and lay out their supposed weaknesses and failings. He’s trying to sell his political moves without reference to substance – with a wink, a smile, a counterattack, a ‘reminder’ of how great and popular he is – by his account. He wants loyalty, but not as a value but as a way to make his life more simple.
Netanyahu, instead of the trashing the Loony Left, will focus on explaining and teaching his own understanding and take on things. He will not talk about his capitalist views as the super rich know on whose side he is and the rest should not be wiser as they are already. But all what he says is about content and substance.
Negotiating style. Behind closed doors, Trump tries to find favor with his interlockers, flattering shamelessly and asking them to please him with one concession. If they do not cooperate he will try bullying. If that doesn’t work, he’s stay away from them. In the open, he will just lay down his rule, in the hope to get away with it. It’s all about power.
Netanyahu is never done trying to win over people on the basis of arguments, both people he needs to negotiate with and the public. He may even lecture the mighty. His reasoning is argument-driven.
Policy. Trump’s against anything that smells Left-wing or costs money, even if it plainly makes sense or is true. So does he try to stop social healthcare for all, protecting the environment and creating green jobs. His goals are often informed by greed, good business, making money.
Netanyahu, by contrast, is a realist, so he will not trash environmentalism, if only because he’d use a lot of voters and he’s very proud of Israel’s universal health care system. His goal is often in the first place dictated by considerations of security. Therefore, he doesn’t like much of the ideas that Trump promotes (like in Syria).
Nationalism. Trump is not really proud of the US – these are just slogans to win support. He gives himself away in how easily he sells himself down the stream with the Russians. No one asks him what he means by Making America Great Again. Again like when – when it had slavery, when women were not allowed to vote, when it tried to murder out Vietnam – but failed? Since when has it gone down and what needs to be regained?
Netanyahu, conversely, knows to his bones so deep, that the Jewish People, like any Nation, needs and deserves a national Home State. This Zionism has nothing to do with chauvinism.
Jews. Somehow Trump found out that Jews (and homosexuals) are the easiest to work with, the most-loyal poodles. And he does.
Netanyahu, however, is surrounded by Jews who feel free to disagree and betray him at every turn. It’s nice to feel safe and at home, but should that give us the freedom to misbehave and in-flight?
Allies. Trump has surrounded himself with ultra-right-wing supporters, kind-of his kind of people, to tell him right from wrong.
Netanyahu has many right-wing and super-religious people around him but he does his own thinking. One reason for the abundance of Right-wingers is that most of the Left has declared him unkosher (but not Shas). He would never work with supremacists.
Formality. Trump speaks as the guy next door, as a working-class mind gone rich and powerful. Of course, he never was a working-class guy, or even a self-made man. He’s the rich illiterate inheritor of a wealthy man, taking over his father’s business.
Netanyahu does not have this at all. He speaks like a leader and a thinker – loath him or love him.
Communication. Trump starts turmoil as smoke screens around his real activities to change the US. During his campaign, all the negativity was picked up by the press as in a reflex, making it unnecessary for him to advertise or seek attention. There is no such thing as bad publicity.
Netanyahu is surrounded by negative publicity and he tries to ignore it and stay positive himself. Again, he tries to win on argument.
Ego. For Trump his political carrier is part of making himself great again. It’s all about boosting: his own ego, the power of the Right and the bank accounts of the rich.
For Netanyahu, quite the opposite, it’s just a job – and maybe a sport too. He’s a political animal – this is what he’s good at. He loves the power, he loves to win, he loves the money and the status (and loathes the pressure and stress), but in the end of the day, he’s just doing his job, as a fellow servant trying to help bring about a better world. As a bonus, he would love to come out well in the history books and anyway have done something worthwhile for the Jewish Nation.
Legal trouble. Now Trump has been elected – gasp – many are dreaming about impeachment. The fancied charges are: treason with Russia, a disgrace to the US. He brings such a shame on the Land of the Brave that one cannot imagine that the Right, always desperate to keep up any appearance of decency, would maintain him for 4 years.
Israeli media are full of slander about Netanyahu. There would be four criminal investigations in which he could be suspect (or three, two, one, none) – this all in the hope to chuck him out, since his opponents see no other way to get rid of him. He’s not like PM Olmert, darling of the press, nicknamed Mr. Teflon, since so many court cases couldn’t nail him, until … they could. Netanyahu even has never been charged with any crime, let alone had his day in court. His legal trouble’s neither.
Mindset. Trump has been accused or suspected of being crazy, senile, wicked, clueless, incoherent, chaotic and thoroughly dishonest.
Netanyahu is not accused of being politically dishonest since it’s clear that an honest politician isn’t getting anywhere. However, he’s claimed to have been financially dishonest. He’s been called a Right-wing fanatic by the extreme Left and a Left-wing traitor by the far-Right – not bad, no? In any case, no one calls him a mental case or evil.
Maybe one could successfully compare US President Trump to the personalities, words or actions of Russian President Putin, Philippine President Duterte, South-African President Zuma, or Turkish President Erdogan – but not to Netanyahu’s.
Don’t say that Netanyahu is like Trump, or vice versa. Especially when you present yourself as someone in the know, you don’t want anyone to think or find out that you don’t know anything about politics.