The excruciatingly protracted counting of the votes cast in Tuesday’s United States election brings to mind an old Jewish – but possibly no longer PC – story about a group of yeshiva students taking an excursion on a train in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Reaching their destination, they alighted their carriage while studiously ignoring the outstretched hand of the conductor awaiting his customary tip.
Last off the train was the teacher, who gave the conductor a generous tip for the group as a whole. Upon which the train official remarked: “I don’t know if you Jews crucified Jesus, but I’m sure you drove him up the wall.”
Joe Biden will soon be confirmed as the winner of the November 3 election and the next president of the United States, but only after an agonizing 72 hours that drove his supporters crazy. Positive pre-election polls made them brim with anticipation when the polls closed, initial returns indicating a Trump victory then crushed their souls and for the next two days they alternated between elation and a nervous breakdown.
Unlike similar-minded Israelis, however, who repeatedly go through identical experiences whenever elections are held and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to lose, as he usually is, for U.S. Democrats there is a happy ending. Everything seemed to be pointing to an agonizing return engagement of their 2016 trauma, in the end it was Donald Trump who ended up on the wrong side of the Electoral College.
Trump’s unprecedented, demented-strongman address from the West Wing on Thursday night, in which he invented a conspiracy out of thin air to forge the results with mail-in votes, corroborated critics’ claim that he constitutes a clear and present danger to American democracy. Trump depicted the election process, the holy of holies of any functioning democracy, as a Democratic denizen of corruption and fraud. They are “stealing” the election, he told his 70 million agitated supporters.
It was the horrific last hurrah of a vain and horrid man. If you didn’t know he was the president of the United States, you’d swear Trump was either a tinpot dictator from some shithole of a country or was suffering from acute delusional paranoia.
It was demeaning for the United States, degrading for the Office of the President and extremely dangerous for the days and weeks ahead. The president is telling his already aggrieved and enraged followers that the left is staging a coup. What is a fired-up, red-blooded, heavily armed, Trump-worshipping white supremacist expected to do?
- What a Biden Win Means for U.S. Ties With Israel
- 'We're Going to Win This Race': Biden Addresses Nation as His Lead Over Trump Grows
- Would a Lame Duck Trump Give Israel One Last Gift?
Trump’s harangue sounded familiar to Israelis too. Despite the clear-cut differences, it echoed Netanyahu’s similarly unhinged outbursts against the legal system that has investigated him and put him on trial. Rather than face their separate predicaments like mature adults, both leaders opted to undermine and cripple the very foundations of their country’s democracy and rule of law.
Both peddled crazy conspiracy theories about grand and sinister plots aimed at illegally depriving them of their rightful throne. Both alluded to sinister forces on the left with big money at their disposal and the media and establishment at their beck and call. Without saying so explicitly, both incited their fanatic fans to take matters into their own hands in order to save their cherished leader from his nefarious enemies.
Which is one major reason, besides many others, why Trump’s defeat is nothing less than salvation, for Israel as well as the United States. Trump’s contempt for democracy and rule of law, disdain for tradition, norms and common decency, incessant lies and fabrications and willingness to take down anyone and anything that stands in his way have both inspired Netanyahu and given him license to poison the very soul of Israeli democracy.
A Biden presidency will necessarily rein in the Israeli prime minister. Trump’s removal from office will erase the cover of legitimacy that the U.S. president has given Netanyahu over the past four years. It would highlight Netanyahu’s efforts to undermine the rule of law as nothing more than a reckless attempt to extricate himself from his legal predicament, just as Trump’s rants against the integrity of the U.S. electoral system on Thursday night were meant to reverse the reality of his imminent electoral defeat, or at least deflect attention away from it.
Biden has bigger concerns, of course, than arresting Netanyahu’s wanton attacks on Israeli democracy. Unlike Trump, however, whose alleged love for Israel extends only as far as the attention span of his evangelical base, Biden has a long record of supporting Israel and, more importantly, caring about its wellbeing. His White House is unlikely to give the Israeli prime minister a license to kill Israeli democracy just as it is unlikely to maintain Trump’s complete code of silence concerning the occupation and Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.
With his unequivocal and unquestioning support for Netanyahu, preference for messianic Jews and Christians alike, disdain for Palestinians and disregard for Israel’s cohesion or wellbeing, Trump has facilitated the steady deterioration and degradation of the most hallowed institutions of democracy and good governance. Immensely popular by virtue of what Netanyahu touts as Trump’s unprecedented friendship towards the Jewish state, Trump’s presence and conduct have brought out Israel’s worst instincts.
You only had to watch Trump’s deranged speech on Thursday night, his feigned or genuine belief in any cock-and-bull story that serves his purposes, his willingness to save himself and destroy America in the process, his mendacity, brutality and absolute contempt for others to realize how dangerous he was – and could still possibly be – for the United States, Israel and the world.
It was 17th Century English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller who coined the phrase: “It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth,” while touring Palestine, appropriately enough. Trump’s usurpation speech was the darkest and Biden’s impending victory is the first sliver of the sunlight of a new dawn for Americans, Israelis and the rest of humanity. Providing we all survive Trump’s remaining 75 days in office.