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Netanyahu Mirrors 'Trump Style'; Election Defeat Could Mean a Change of Tack

Carolina Landsmann
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President Donald Trump with his typical gesticulation during an event at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2020.
President Donald Trump with his typical gesticulation during an event at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2020. Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Carolina Landsmann

In a week and a half, Americans will decide for the whole world: Will we remain in the political-cultural-economic conceptual world as created by Donald Trump, or will we, as Israelis say, “change the disk”?

Trump’s campaign managers are troubled by the loss of the senior-citizen vote. This is an important point due to the classic identification between the Republican right and conservatism. A Pew survey in February found that two-thirds of Americans feel “exhausted” by the flood of news Trump produces every day. This tempo is the essence of everything the conservatives, and older people in general, are afraid of: The world is moving too fast; stop for a moment.

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But it isn’t only a matter of style. We have to make an effort to remember the world before Trump. What was the status of the United States and its presidents, what did its relations with Europe, the United Nations and international law look like?

It’s hard to capture the breadth of the Trumpist move regarding China, North Korea and Russia. Trump is an anti-globalist, but in a certain sense he has shrunk the map and turned all the states, peoples and leaders into places and figures in a conspiracy theory.

It’s hard to grasp the change that has occurred regarding basic terms like democracy, law and facts. The question Stefan Zweig raised in his memoir, “The World of Yesterday,” echoes in my head. He asked what life he meant when he said “my life” – before World War I, before World War II, or during it? – because the changes in the world were so great.

I had thought that the great changes belonged to the past. Trump smashed that illusion, and without even declaring war.

The pace of news Trump has produced in recent years has been felt worldwide and has swept up masses who adopted the Trumpist pace and style as if it were a political fashion trend. In Israel, too, Trump fashion thrives in the Knesset, the cabinet and the media. Many have been tempted to see Trump as a student of the veteran Benjamin Netanyahu.

Indeed, it’s evident that Trump has adopted Netanyahu’s geopolitical view, at least regarding the Middle East. But an examination of Netanyahu’s conduct reveals a radical change that he himself underwent once Trump entered politics – in Netanyahu’s ranting rhetoric, use of social media, vulgarization of the public discourse by proxy (mainly through his son Yair), and appointment of ministers based on their unsuitability or contempt for the field they’re in charge of.

Netanyahu has changed so much in the last few years that he almost makes us long for the old Netanyahu, even among those who never liked him. Compared to the recent Netanyahu, who has resorted to pedophilia imagery to describe his rivals, it’s hard not to feel a rush of nostalgia for the gentleman from Zion Square.

But the speed with which Netanyahu has adopted – like many in Israel and around the world – Trump’s style, is second only to the speed with which it will be dropped if Trump loses. Anyone who sticks with that style will seem as ridiculous as a woman wearing low-waist trousers today.

Despite the local turmoil, Israeli politics has for months been treading water, playing for time until the elections in America. The goal is to see if the Americans continue to supersize reality three times a day until their arteries burst, or stop.

Even those who understand the essential role Trump played in exposing the hypocrisy in the old world order surely understand that the correction must be left to others.

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