Editorial

Philippine President Duterte, an Unwanted Guest in Israel

The enlightened world is not interested in granting legitimacy to Duterte, but that doesn't interest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu too much.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is surrounded by security after a press conference in Manila, Philippines, March 13, 2017.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is surrounded by security after a press conference in Manila, Philippines, March 13, 2017. Aaron Favila/AP

In the eyes of the Israeli government, Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, is a positive person. (Barak Ravid, “Philippine strongman Duterte expected to visit Israel,” March 14) He has never supported a boycott of the settlements and has never taken an interest in human rights in the Palestinian territories. Because he has never visited Israel and never deceived the immigration authorities, he has no problem with his passport. When he arrives at Ben-Gurion International Airport he will not be greeted with a detention cell or a seat on the next flight back to Manila, but by a long line of welcomers and a red carpet.

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Why not? Duterte is innocent of any sin that could stain his image as president. He only encourages police officers and civilians to kill suspects in drug dealing without the judicial process. Thousands have already been killed during his term. The voice that eggs on hasty executions is not always punctilious about etiquette. His model in the war against drugs is Adolf Hitler and the extermination of the Jews. He insulted Barack Obama with abominations that not even Donald Trump has said publicly.

“There are many controversial leaders in the world and many countries that criticize them. Duterte is not boycotted by the world, there are no sanctions against him and he has visited a number of countries since taking office,” said a senior official in the Foreign Ministry. But the president of the Philippines has yet to visit any country in Europe or North America, or Australia or New Zealand. Since he took office in June 2016, Duterte has visited only his neighbors in Asia, such as China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In May he is expected to visit Russia.

That the enlightened world is not interested in granting legitimacy to Duterte does not interest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu too much. As far as he is concerned, Duterte is a welcome guest. When you harm human rights in the Philippines, that is an internal matter; it cannot be compared to the Israeli worries about Jews suffering from harassment in various countries.

Netanyahu even likes dictators: It is possible to make deals and do business with them without fears of democratic opposition. This is especially true when they ask to buy Israeli-made weapons. After all, this necessity will not be condemned: The defense industries provide jobs for tens of thousands, and every item goes down in price for the IDF when the production line is increased to accommodate foreign customers. A similar justification does not apply, of course, to the sale of weapons by other countries, for example Russia and Iran.

It may be hard to expect a prime minister who in recent years has dragged Israel to a moral abyss to have a bad impression of a leader who crudely disregards human and civil rights, and for whom Hitler is a model and ideal. Nonetheless, it would be better if Netanyahu, in his position as foreign minister as well as premier, would display responsibility and find a diplomatic excuse to call off this visit.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.