After four years of explicit support from the right, accompanied by enabling silence from the mainstream, suddenly the Israelis are remembering to flee for their lives from U.S. President Donald Trump’s sinking ship. When Capitol Hill is literally burning, that’s the sign for the absolutely last passengers to flee to the quay in panic, to the right side of history.
These passengers want to pay the lowest possible price for their ethical choices: Not to anger the centers of power when they’re on top, and not to pay a price for abandoning them when they’re down. And that’s exactly how Channel 12 News anchor Yonit Levi’s interview with Boaz Bizmuth, editor-in-chief of the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, sounded on Thursday, after the invasion of Congress by Trump supporters. Beneath the exchange of words appeared the subtitle “A harsh final chord to four years of Trump’s tenure.” As though the entire melody until then was Mozart.
Will Bibi's charm offensive of Israeli Arabs keep him in power? LISTEN to Election Overdose Podcast
Levi, her eyebrows contracted even more than usual – the silent barometer needle of her dissatisfaction (along with her famous sighs at the ends of news stories), wanted to know, “Is this the moment when even you, who strongly supported him, have to say: The president crossed a red line?” And when the anticipated mea culpa on a live broadcast failed to materialize, Levi raised her tone of voice: “He called on his supporters, Let’s go to the Capitol, we’ll never admit we lost – do none of those statements bother you?”
Among all his rhetorical juggling, Bismuth, who is still fiercely defending the former candidate of his patron, U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, gave her the most accurate reply: “Yonit, all the reports this evening could have been heard two days ago.” In other words, Yonit, we’ve heard the claims about Trump’s contribution to the end of democracy before. What has actually changed, and where were you then?
Bismuth is right. He represents those who for four years vocally supported Trump, for ideological and utilitarian reasons. Levi represents those who for four years only maintained an “objective” facade, while providing approval for the support. Now they’re remembering to be shocked.
In an interview with Army Radio, Dani Dayan, former Israeli consul general in New York, provided a fascinating glimpse at another aspect of the phenomenon. When asked, “Do you feel that Trump has lost it?” he replied: “Ah, there’s no doubt, and not only yesterday, I’ll say it in a broader perspective: For Israel it was a diplomatic miracle. The dividends we received from the Trump administration are inconceivable. On the other hand, for American democracy it was a serious traffic accident.”
And what does Israel do when it witnesses a serious accident? It gives the drunk driver another gulp of wine from the territories. “Isn’t it embarrassing now to be on the side of Trump supporters?” asked Udi Segal. “Yes, in a certain sense, yes,” Dayan admitted. But he hastened to explain: Those same “dividends” (Trump’s unilateral recognition of the Israeli occupation) were worth the price.
- After siege on Capitol, Israeli politicians wonder 'could it happen here?'
- Netanyahu condemns Capitol siege after Trump promises 'orderly transition'
- Capitol attack: A look at who has been arrested and can Trump be charged?
In other words: For four years most of the Israeli public, whether publicly or by maintaining silence, supported all the things that the majority is now hastening to condemn. And when the mainstream is afraid to express an opinion in the face of anti-democratic forces that are strong and in power – and only because they are – that’s the real danger to democracy.
An enlightening example of this aired at the end of the interview with Bismuth. When he claimed, “I didn’t hear a thing about the violence from the other side,” Levi quickly corrected him by pointing out that sitting next to her was “the correspondent who reported a great deal about those things.” Because the most important thing is to create a balance. That’s why Bismuth was there in the first place. Until that ship sinks, too.