Opinion

Bye-bye Trump, Shalom Bibi

U.S. President Donald Trump and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk along the Colonnade of the White House in Washington, on March 25, 2019.
Manuel Balce Ceneta,AP

A comparison between Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu reveals great differences. They live in different countries with different systems of government. Trumpland has an ironclad Constitution that the U.S. president, perhaps for the first time, is trying to undermine. Israel has no constitution and no long-standing democratic tradition. Here things get done by arm-twisting.

In terms of their characters there is great similarity in the way in which each puts his personal interests above principles such as morality or decency. However, in terms of diplomatic and political parameters, Netanyahu beats Trump.

There are also substantial differences in their situations. Trump is a president of a minority party, who won the election but did not win over public opinion. Polls show him to be much less popular than most of the Democratic candidates, particularly among younger voters. In Israel, the situation is the opposite. Even though Netanyahu was defeated in the last election, a right-wing, religious and ultranationalist worldview is the predominant one. (Click here for live Turkey-Syria updates)

Despite these differences, it appears that both of them are sinking, losing their grip on the reins of power. 

Trump’s deficiencies were always obvious. He may have had some localized achievements here and there, but he’s a leader with no clear path, bent only on personal victories.

On his way to attaining these he demonstrates ignorance and a lack of understanding: He cancels the nuclear deal with Iran without weighing the consequences, weakens NATO and Europe while delivering an unexpected gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now we are witness to his reckless withdrawal from the Middle East and from his commitment to the Kurds, arguing that they did not support the United States in Normandy during World War II.

The image of a cowboy scoffing at all his critics while threatening rivals appealed to many in Israel, who believed that only Netanyahu could mobilize the American president to stand by us. However, the last election opened an abyss between them.

Trump is angry at Netanyahu not over some specific matter but because he didn’t manage to win the election despite favorable U.S. policies.

A man walks past a Likud party election campaign banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump as a labourer hangs it up in Jerusalem September 9, 2019.
\ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

Trump likes winners. He doesn’t need a leader who is a loser and who is incapable of turning the American Jewish community into his supporters.

I don’t believe Trump will completely turn his back on Israel, since his Christian evangelical base supports Israel. But if he thinks that a compromise with Iran will strengthen him in his race for reelection against the Democrats, he won’t hesitate to sign such a deal.

All of this has landed a blow on Netanyahu’s image as an invincible politician. He’s gambling on the results of a third election, but he comes to it as a lame duck, given his failure in September. He is seen as the main culprit in causing repeated cycles of elections. He, the great wizard, is incapable of forming a government for the second time, while facing the threat of criminal indictments. He is a beatable and weak candidate.

This is good news for anyone who believes in a true and functional democracy, in a government that doesn’t stoke controversy while promoting societal fissures and sowing fear. It’s good news for people who believe in leaders who behave in accordance with the norms of decency. Perhaps we’ll succeed in advancing to a higher degree, where truth is labeled truth and lies are always lies.

Trump won’t turn his back on Israel, but if he thinks a deal with Iran will get him reelected, he won’t hesitate to sign.