U.S. Elections Far More Critical to Israel's Future Than Its Own

A Biden victory would deflate Netanyahu – and make Israel sane again

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Trump and Netanyahu talk outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., on January 27, 2020.
Trump and Netanyahu talk outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., on January 27, 2020.Credit: Kevin Lamarque/ REUTERS
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly spread word of his intention to call snap elections. In the latest version of his unattributed leaks, November is the target date, in close and even suspicious proximity to the November 3 elections in the United States.

Perhaps Netanyahu envisages a joint heroic leap with U.S. President Donald Trump into the abyss, a la Thelma and Louise. Perhaps he’s praying that Trump will make good on his threat to reject his expected loss and plans to follow in his footsteps.

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Netanyahu may also believe that despite the resurgent coronavirus epidemic and the mounting protests against his personal corruption, the lack of a formidable rival will turn elections in his favor.

One way or another, the theoretical conjunction of the two elections campaigns highlights the fact that the Israeli ballot will have only a marginal impact on the country’s future. American voters will determine Israel’s fate, one way or another.

Things you can see from there, however – or from almost anywhere else in the world – can’t be seen from here, apparently.

The only prism through which the Israeli public currently views the U.S. election is Trump’s supposedly pro-Israel policies. His incessant lies and blatant corruption, the fear and loathing he disseminates, the erosion of democracy and the free fall in America’s stature in the world – all of these, it seems, are of little interest.

The almost supernatural similarities between the political and emotional state of Trump and Netanyahu – both congenital liars and obsessive self-victimizers who detest checks and balances and have been hit hard by their mismanagement of the coronavirus epidemic – blinds most Israelis to the historic, dichotomous decision American voters will make on November 3.

Living in a parallel universe of bedlam, lunacy and rampant malfeasance at the top, President Trump’s lunacy seems relatively normal when viewed through Israeli eyes. It even relieves some of the anxiety and angst over our local meshugas, because misery loves company.

The U.S. election, more than any in recent history, is a T-junction from which the United States can only turn in one of two diametrically opposite ways. A Trump victory, which currently seems improbable, would give a clear stamp of approval to his divisive, immoral and destructive presidency. America as we know it – and Israel in its wake – might survive one Trump term, but surely not two.

A second Trump term would irrevocably depose the United States from its position as leader of the free world. It would cripple international organizations and drive a final wedge into the North Atlantic alliance. It would delight Vladimir Putin and encourage dictators and strongmen throughout the world.

A Trump victory would not only help Netanyahu get reelected, it would spell four more years of hyper-nationalism and disdain for Palestinians. It would bring Israeli democracy to its breaking point.

A Joe Biden victory, on the other hand, will be greeted with a collective sigh of relief throughout the democratic world.

It would resuscitate the United States, calm its internal strife and reinstate its commanding role in world affairs. A Biden victory is also likely to revert Israel to its former sanity, such as it was, force it to engage once again with Palestinians and save its bleeding democracy.

Trump gave Israel a free hand to do whatever it wants because he doesn’t really care. Biden would put on the brakes to prevent Israel from going completely off the rails.

Trump’s return would give Netanyahu a moral win that will boost his chances for an electoral victory as well. Trump’s defeat, on the other hand, would render Netanyahu an embarrassing liability, to be discarded as swiftly as possible.

A Biden win would reverse the ugly wave of right-wing nationalist zealotry that has flourished under Netanyahu and Trump’s willfully blind eye. Israelis should be anxiously awaiting the U.S. election, therefore, rather than jumping up and down with excitement whenever Netanyahu bats an eyelid.

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