A year ago, the world changed overnight. The election of Donald Trump did something to us all. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu did not publicly welcome the news with hand-rubbing glee. Behind the scenes, though, it freed something in the prime minister.
And that something wasn't good.
The election emboldened Netanyahu. Not only the triumph of a Sheldon Adelson-backed Republican but also the defeat of three political forces Netanyahu viewed as likely ruts and potholes in his chosen path - the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, and, by extension, the leader Netanyahu most loved to hate, Barack Obama.
The election also elevated to front-row, what-they-say-goes prominence the one group in the world which has retained an apostle-grade adoration of Netanyahu - the one of four Americans who identify as evangelical Christians.
Taking his cue from Trump's nativist base, the election freed Netanyahu to cater to the winds of populism, Jewish supremacism, fundamentalist politics and dog-whistle racism within his own far-right coalition. Their demands – more settlement, a strengthened Orthodox monopoly, less equality for non-Jews, deportation of migrants – would not play well in the world. Which is music to Netanyahu's ears. What hurts Israel in the long run only helps him in the short run.
Since last November 8, the prime minister's moves to slight and betray and infuriate the world Jewish community, to effectively annex the West Bank, and to undermine the already severely compromised values of the rule of law and of democracy and equality in Israel have set the nation and the Jewish world on a progressively more dangerous path.
Netanyahu may well have seen himself as having won along with Trump last November. But the Israel of its own declaration of independence, and the relationship which Israel long prized with the Jews of the wider world, lost big.
Over the past year, nothing has harmed Israel worse than the measures over which the prime minister himself has presided. Nothing, that is, carried out by Iran, Hamas, ISIS, or for that matter, by the BDS movement or as a result of the findings of Israel Police detectives investigating Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu.
In the short span of Trump's taking power, Netanyahu has shattered a 70-year-long relationship with North American Jewry, a bond long seen as one of Israel's primary strategic assets. The prime minister has ignored the counsel of top Israeli security and diplomatic officials, in order to side with Trump on such issues as undermining the Iran nuclear deal and keeping mum on a surge of anti-Semitism over the past year.
Here, then, are seven of the most harmful anti-Israel milestones of the year since Donald Trump's election:
7. Netanyahu reinvents himself as Trump Part I - Netanyahu exalts Trump's wall, and enacts his own version of travel ban.
In late 2015, Netanyahu had joined world leaders in condemning then-candidate Trump's vow to institute a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Trump subsequently canceled a planned trip to Israel, later stating that Netanyahu's criticism had been "inappropriate."
But by January of this year, as his entire 22-strong cabinet refused all requests to comment on now-President Trump's contentious executive order suspending refugee arrivals and barring visas for travelers from against seven Muslim-majority countries, Netanyahu tweeted:
President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel's southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea 🇮🇱🇺🇸— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 28, 2017
“President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”
By March, Netanyahu had enacted a new travel ban of his own. The ban specified denying entry to Israel of individual members of organizations and individuals who, the government deemed, advocated a boycott of Israel.
6. Netanyahu reinvents himself as Trump Part II - Dismisses as "Fake News" all allegations of wrongdoing, while impugning and stonewalling senior government investigators and prosecutors – further cementing his bond with the Republican Party and mega-donor Sheldon Adelson – and further alienating and angering Democrats, who include the vast majority of U.S. Jews.
"In the Mueller probe and the incessant probes against Netanyahu we see the new face of the Left," hard right ideologue Caroline Glick wrote last week in a twinned defense of both Trump and Netanyahu. "Unable to win elections, they exploit their control over the bureaucracy and media to overturn election results.
"There can be no greater threat to the health of a liberal democracy than that."
5. Netanyahu, ignoring his own defense establishment and key allies, urges Trump to scrap the Iran nuclear deal.
Despite widespread sentiment among senior security officials that Iran was continuing to comply with the terms of the agreement, and support for the deal among Israel's key allies in Europe, the prime minister took to the rostrum of the UN General Assembly in September to blast the deal, urging world powers to "fix it or nix it."
"If President Donald Trump moves to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Israel's nationalist government can be expected to be the loudest — and perhaps only — major player to applaud," the Associated Press reported.
However, it continued, "There is a strong sense among [Netanyahu's] own security establishment that there are few good alternatives, that the deal has benefited Israel, and that U.S. credibility could be squandered in the turbulent Middle East in ways that could harm Israel itself."
4. Netanyahu files for divorce from American Jewry by reneging pacts over Western Wall and conversion
How bad is the rift? Last month, Netanyahu considered staying away altogether from the annual convention of the Jewish Federations of North America, reportedly for fear of being heckled and booed by resentful delegates. The Reform Movement, meanwhile, has announced that it will reject all bids to meet with Netanyahu or his office until a concrete offer for solving the Western Wall crisis is put on the table.
And if that were not enough, as Trump courted the alt-right, he did next to nothing to acknowledge and counter a wave of anti-Semitism, and suggested that there were fine people among the marchers who accompanied Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting "the Jews will not replace us," Netanyahu, the man with the sterling silver tongue, was silent.
3. Netanyahu nods to majority supremacism, vowing to suppress and deport migrants and working to enact a bill which relegates Arab citizens to second class status and may sap the rights of women, LGBTQ people, non-Orthodox Jews and others.
With less fear of opposition from a White House pursuing similar directions, Netanyahu is set on finally passing a Jewish Nation-State Bill. The draft text includes a provision stating that "the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people." It also demotes Arabic from its present status as an official language of Israel to an undefined "special status."
2. Effective annexation of West Bank, accompanied by intensive efforts to foil talks with Palestinians
This was a year in which the government sought legislative and other means to legalize outposts and settlements which in the past even Israel had declared illegal. It was a year in which officials from Netanyahu on down boasted of how Hebron, Ariel, and other settlement centers were part and parcel of Israel. It was a year in which Netanyahu ruled out any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, as well as any uprooting of settlers, legal or otherwise. And it was a year in which Netanyahu added no less than seven new and likely impossible preconditions for the resumption of talks with the Palestinians.
1. Cutting electric power to the Gaza Strip
All but forgotten in the welter of regional tensions and wars of words, was a Netanyahu government decision to accede to a request by the Palestinian Authority – then engaged in a power struggle with Hamas – to cut Israeli-supplied electric power to the Gaza Strip to a maximum of three hours and 15 minutes over every 24 hours.
The government did so at the height of the heat of the Gaza summer, during the sunrise-to-sundown fast of Ramadan, with hospital wards and drinking-water desalination plants already closed down for lack of power, and with raw sewage running in the streets and between houses.
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