It’s not clear why MK Michal Rozin and her colleagues from Meretz deemed it so urgent to rescue Benjamin Netanyahu. The petition Rozin launched, which urged the prime minister not to meet with that grotesque candidate for the United States presidency, Donald Trump – who has since canceled his visit – caused Netanyahu to object to Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the U.S., the latest move in his racist, populist campaign. Netanyahu thereby ostensibly differentiated himself from Trump, who embodies a powerful combination of verbal violence, vulgarity and other moral and psychological problems.
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The truth is that Netanyahu and Trump actually deserve each other. They’re made of the same psychological materials. “The Arabs are going to the polls in droves,” which Netanyahu produced at money time, is no different from the repulsive statements made by Trump, another political boor who, by virtue of the loudness of his shouting, has managed to gather a flock of errant sheep, devoid of any conscience or original thought. In their hour of need, when the ballot box was ticking away, both were willing to ride roughshod to the goal, even at the price of making abominable and catastrophic remarks.
The difference between them is that Netanyahu has to don a mask from time to time and behave like the leader of a proper democratic country. This usually happens in English, via some statement or another about two states for two peoples or about protecting minority rights, which is given a contemptible burial the moment his private plane lands at Ben-Gurion Airport, or whenever he faces an electoral emergency.
If Trump were president of the U.S., heaven forbid, it’s reasonable to assume that he, too, would periodically issue more normative statements amid his assaults on Mexicans, Muslims, opinionated women and anyone else who can serve as a populist punching bag. It’s too bad it’s no longer in style to be anti-Semitic. An intifada could yet have erupted here because of his provocative whim to ascend the Temple Mount.
Trump isn’t a good fit just for Netanyahu, but also for the mood of the Israeli majority. Netanyahu’s electoral base, which ignores issues like the shocking poverty report released this week and elects him again and again mainly for his racist rhetoric and patriotic manipulations (“We have no V-15, we have an Order 8,” he said, referring respectively to an organization dedicated to unseating him and the army’s emergency call-up code), could be honored to have a president like Trump.
How is Trump different from people like Avigdor Lieberman, who was deemed the best candidate for defense minister by 30 percent of respondents in television polls commissioned at the outbreak of the latest wave of terror; or Moti Yogev, who wants to take a bulldozer to the Supreme Court; or Bezalel Smotrich, who explained why burning a Palestinian family to death isn’t an act of terror; or even Yair Lapid, who discovered God in mid-life, apparently because someone whispered in his ear that this was the only way he could become prime minister?
Israelis aren’t unusual in the current global climate, which, out of fear, has become addicted to screaming, populism and violence. But with its surging racism and its moral bestialization, Israel stands out for the degree to which it has abandoned its democratic assets.
An ugly torrent cannot be stopped with a rose-colored Band-Aid produced by Michal Rozin. Until the masses put an end to the torture of life under totalitarian thugs, who have nothing to offer their subjects but empty verbiage and warlike slogans, no change whatsoever will happen here.
It’s a pity that Trump ended up saving Netanyahu from himself. Had they met, they would have shown each other the ugly face of reality.