Trumpism and Bibi-ism Are Still Friends

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 2017.
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 2017.Credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

Donald Trump’s attack on Benjamin Netanyahu must not be allowed to obscure the truth – their conflict is personal, not ideological. Trump is angry at Bibi, but the friendship between Trumpism and Bibi-ism has never been better.

Ever since the 1950s, a warning light has been flashing against attacks on human rights. That warning light was McCarthyism, named for Republican senator Joseph McCarthy, who headed the House Un-American Activities Committee. The committee created a reign of terror and informing, especially in cultural circles.

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But it eventually spoiled its own broth. In the end, McCarthy was condemned by his own party and revealed in all his shame in an interview with Edward R. Murrow on CBS television in which he fell apart on camera. His failure advanced the battle for human rights in the United States and the entire democratic world.

Less than 70 years later, the Republican Party has become a homogeneous group that is fighting against the “deep state” and standing alongside Trumpism, which is stronger and more dangerous than McCarthyism. The new enemy is liberalism.

The seeds of Trumpism are blossoming before our eyes. The U.S. Supreme Court is relying on a Republican majority as it draws near to overturning a previous court ruling regarding a woman’s rights over her own body. It may well permit sweeping state legislation that limits the right to an abortion to the first six weeks of pregnancy. This would be a giant step by conservatives to undermine democratic America.

This trend is also present and in full force in Israel. Here, conservatism’s enemy is “the other,” who, by the very fact of being different, is denounced as a leftist and as “unpatriotic.” It’s clear that secular conservatism has changed its face. It has forged an alliance with religious nationalism and ultra-Orthodox sects that view conservatism as a commandment of the Torah.

Members of Netanyahu’s Likud are going along with the delusions of MK Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism), who seeks “a religious Jewish state in the entire Land of Israel.” They have long since pulled their kippas out of their pockets and put them on their heads. Smotrich and his party colleague, Itamar Ben-Gvir, are an integral part of the Bibi-ist camp.

A Jewish state, according to the religious/conservative interpretation, is a state that sanctifies discrimination and refuses to recognize the difference of the other. It’s a state where Judaism bursts forth and buries the remains of democracy and human rights beneath it. And leading figures in this conservative movement are aiming their battle against the legal system and the Supreme Court, which, despite all the criticism of it, still stands like a burning torch that upholds the values of gender equality and ethnic equality in the face of a racist, discriminatory mood.

The battle against the legal system isn’t related solely to Netanyahu’s criminal trial. It’s a battle against universalist interpretations of human rights that impact Israel’s nature as a Jewish and democratic state and restrict the political system, which seeks to do whatever it pleases. Comments in this vein were recently made by conservative Supreme Court Justice Noam Sohlberg, who is slated to someday become the court’s president.

American and Israeli conservatism are both built on alliances with the religious – evangelical Christianity in America and both ultra-Orthodox and Zionist Orthodox Judaism in Israel. In both countries, these alliances oppose globalism, because it has universalist foundations on the matter of individual rights.

Despite the exaggerated headlines, the Trump-Netanyahu crisis has nothing to do with values. The two men may be “hostile” to each other, but that’s just a matter of ego and honor. From any other standpoint, Trumpism and Bibi-ism are closer than ever.

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