Analysis

Synchronicity: 13 Ways in Which the New Trump and Netanyahu Messes Are Eerily Similar

From Russian intervention to German submarines, if you believe your leaders knew nothing, there are unicorns waiting just outside your door

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) puts his hand out to U.S. President Donald Trump after speaking to reporters before their meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem May 22, 2017.
JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Swiss psychoanalyst Karl Jung, who delved in the paranormal, coined the term “Synchronicity”, which he defined as “a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events that have the same or similar meaning.” Arthur Koestler’s 1972 book “The Roots of Coincidence” dealt with synchronicity, which is where British rock group Police picked up the name for their popular 1983 album. Now, courtesy of the New York Times and the Israeli police, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu have provided a clear-cut example of synchronicity, of two dramatic developments that have absolutely no connection but nonetheless carry similar significance and potential impact.

In less than 24 hours, the roofs fell in over the two leaders’ heads. Public scandals that had been dogging them for many months broke wide open. In both cases, turning points were reached that could ultimately prove fatal to their political careers. The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer with clear intent to receive damaging material on Hillary Clinton that would be supplied by the Russian government is a watershed, as is the police interrogation of top figures with close ties to Netanyahu who are allegedly connected to charges of corruption in the Israeli Navy’s purchase of three nuclear-capable submarines from Germany.

Though the two cases are miles apart in substance, they share some strikingly similar features, which are listed below.

1.  Both allegations, if proven, are tagged as one of the greatest crimes in the history of the two respective countries. Russian interference in the U.S. elections is an enormous scandal in and of itself, but if it was done in collusion with a President who actually won the elections, it is shocking, massive, unprecedented and whatever other adjectives you can think of. The same is true if senior government figures, including top security officials and confidantes of the prime minister, conspired to get Israel to spend billions of dollars on submarines it didn’t really need, in order to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars in commission fees and bribes for themselves.

2.  Both controversies are an affront to cows most sacred: In the U.S., to the U.S. Constitution and American democracy and in Israel, to public trust in the hitherto sacrosanct IDF and life or death national security decisions taken by the defense establishment. In both cases, the allegations, if proven, tread perilously close to treason.

3.   In both cases, the new revelations seem to corroborate the age-old maxim that where there’s smoke, which has been billowing from the media for months on end, eventually there will be a fire.

4.  In both cases, we would still know nothing were it not for a free and unfettered press, or what remains of it. In the U.S., the New York Times and the Washington Post as well have been breaking news on the Russia scandal, if not on a daily then certainly on a weekly basis. In Israel, the submarine scandal was first exposed by Channel 10’s intrepid investigative reporter and perennial thorn in Netanyahu’s side, Raviv Drucker. A host of his colleagues, including Gidi Weitz at Haaretz, have kept up the pressure on Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit, who prematurely and wrongly, apparently, came to the conclusion that the investigation won’t yield criminal complaints.

5.   Both cases involve foreign countries and could have a dramatic influence on future relations with them. No matter how the Russia case is finally resolved, it will have cast a long and dark shadow on relations with Moscow for a long time to come. Trump will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, and if he’s ultimately brought down because of the allegations, the fallout will be compounded ten times over. The same is true for Israel’s relations with Germany, already strained because of ongoing political differences, which would suffer further if the case evolves into a criminal conspiracy, especially one in which Netanyahu is implicated. Future German arms sales to Israel would be in peril.

6.  As it seems now, the best case scenarios for both Trump and Netanyahu is that they were recklessly ignorant of what their relatives and their closest advisers were up to. To believe that, you have to accept that neither Trump Jr. nor Jared Kushner or Paul Manafort, who took part in the June 9, 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, told Trump Sr. of the Kremlin’s intention of supporting Trump and of its extraordinary offer to hand over dirt about Clinton. In Netanyahu’s case, you have to believe that he had no idea that his cousin, neighbor and personal lawyer, David Shimron, with whom he is in close and constant contact, was representing German submarine manufacturer Thyssenkrupp. Or that the fact that all of Netanyahu’s decisions and interventions were geared to coerce the Defense Ministry to purchase the very same German submarines, at a higher price than competing offers, was purely a coincidence. And if you can swallow both claims, there are two unicorns waiting outside your door to take you to see the Loch Ness monster in Atlantis.

7.  The reinvigorated probe destroyed Trump’s long held assertion that talk of collusion with Russia was all “fake news” just as they demolished Netanyahu’s oft-repeated dismissal of the investigations against him “there’s nothing there because there was never anything there.” There’s something there, all right.

8.  Nonetheless, the revelations have so far changed very little in terms of party support for the Republican and Likud leaders, respectively. On their fringes, in fact, Republicans have been more daring in their criticism of Trump, mostly because their political futures are not completely dependent on him, as they are under Israel’s proportional system in which politicians are not elected personally but on their party’s whims. No member of the Likud or of Israel’s ruling coalition has come out against the prime minister or even criticized him in public, though you can hear a lot of moaning and grumbling behind closed doors. In both cases, expediency has trumped conscience, or to put in another way, profiles in courage it ain’t.

9.  The hard core of both constituencies is prone to adopting conspiracy theories, usually involving liberals and the media, whenever their heroes get into hot water. And while overall dissatisfaction with Trump among Republicans may be higher than that of Likudniks with Bibi, Trump’s hold on his party’s base may be tighter than Netanyahu’s. The right wing echo chamber in Israel is nowhere near as tightly sealed as America’s, because most people continue to get most of their news from the same sources, especially on radio and television. The romance between Trump and his base is still fresh and strong while that between Netanyahu and Likudniks is stale and strained after more than 20 years of seeing Netanyahu in leadership roles, eleven of which as prime minister. Also, Trump supporters may come to the conclusion that even if Trump did conspire with the Russians to get him elected, it was worth it. It’s doubtful whether Netanyahu supporters will feel the same if it is proven that he knew of shady dealings in connection with the German submarine deal, and they certainly won’t forgive him if it is discovered that he personally gained from the deal. Even the right wing’s ideological commitment, lust for power and hatred for their rivals won’t suffice to forgive such a massive breach of trust.

10.  For both Netanyahu and Trump, these two are their biggest but not their only scandals.  Trump is embroiled in allegations and insinuations about conflicts of interests, emoluments, using his presidency as a prop for his business empire etc. Netanyahu is facing separate investigations about receiving gifts from billionaire friends that might even be construed as bribes and for negotiating with the publisher of Yedioth Achronot about an illicit deal of positive coverage in exchange for reducing the circulation of Yedioth's main rival, Yisrael Hayom, which is owned and operated by Netanyahu’s backer, Sheldon Adelson.

11.  Both Netanyahu and Trump are seen as inappropriately mixing their families in affairs of state and bringing them too close for comfort into the decision-making process. With Netanyahu it is his wife Sarah, who could soon be put on trial for allegedly misusing state funds for personal expenses, as well as his son Yair, who was last seen dining with the Trumps and Netanyahus during the President’s recent visit to Israel. With Trump it’s Ivanka, who last raised eyebrows when she sat in for her father at the recent G-20 summit, as well as her husband and Trump’s White House adviser, Jared Kushner, who also took part in the 2016 meeting with Veselnitskaya, as well as Donald Jr., who was described on Wednesday in a New York Post editorial that obviously tried to exonerate his father as “an idiot.”

12.  In both cases, we seem to be at a turning point. The smoking gun is already on the table. The most likely scenario is that the defenses of both Trump and Netanyahu will now unravel at an accelerated pace, leading to their inevitable demise, politically speaking. But both leaders have proven resilient in the past and have defied projections of their imminent downfall. Netanyahu could theoretically call for new elections, get a new mandate and prove much harder to topple. Trump could hang on to his seat, no matter what, banking on the probability that the House of Representatives won’t muster the simple majority needed for impeachment and the Senate will definitely fail to get two thirds of its members to vote for his removal from office.

13.  What is certain is that both leaders are under pressure. They’re starting feel cornered. Based on past experience, that means that citizens of both countries should batten down their hatches. You can expect both Trump and Netanyahu to lash out at “fake news” media, to bash their critics, to allude to massive conspiracies masterminded by their political rivals and to seek dramatic diversions that will focus attention elsewhere. Therefore, from North Korea to Gaza, from American Muslims to Israeli leftists, there is no room for complacency in the tense summer months just ahead.