Analysis |

Trump’s Downfall Dismantles Netanyahu’s Republican Iron Dome as Well

Unquestioning support for Israel comes from same looniness that spawned the GOP's controversial candidate.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump Tower, September 25, 2016.
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump Tower, September 25, 2016.Credit: GPO
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Donald Trump is going down. No presidential candidate so far behind has ever recovered in such a short time. After the recording of his repugnant words on women, after five victims and counting have now come forth to complain of his sexual assaults, after his harsh, take no prisoners, “Let me die with the Philistines" reaction, it’s impossible to see how Trump can recover.

If a catastrophe does not befall America, if nothing too terrible is discovered about Hillary Clinton, if the world isn’t upside down and no one knows anything, Trump will suffer a humiliating defeat on November 8. The Republican Party might lose its majority in one if not both houses of Congress. The Evangelical movement, which provides the GOP with ideological and logistical support, could be torn apart by internal strife. Jewish Republicans will be deserting the party in droves, leaving Sheldon Adelson alone among the ruins. And the political Iron Dome that Benjamin Netanyahu has relied on for the past quarter century to support and protect him against leftist, liberal U.S. Democrats could corrode and crumble, leaving him - and Israel, if you are so inclined - alone and vulnerable.

It’s not Netanyahu’s fault, his supporters might say. He couldn’t have anticipated a problematic candidate like Trump, they’ll add. Nonetheless, it is Netanyahu who decided to put all our eggs in the GOP’s basket, against most people’s better judgment. It is Netanyahu who’s relied on Republicans to rebuff President Obama’s peace initiatives. It is Netanyahu who colluded with the GOP leadership, alienating many Democratic lawmakers, before making his famous speech in Congress against the nuclear deal with Iran. It is Netanyahu who openly and brazenly supported Mitt Romney in 2012. And it is Netanyahu who three weeks ago inexplicably initiated a last minute New York meeting with Trump, that could only benefit the Republican candidate. Left with no choice, Clinton showed up as well, 24 hours before her first debate, but the event registered with her and her advisers.

It is Netanyahu who enlisted the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell a quarter of a century ago, on the eve of the Monica Lewinsky affair, to deter President Bill Clinton, just as he and the Israeli right wing have preferred ever since to court the settlement-supporting two-state-opposing Evangelicals rather than contend with the more complex, challenging and critical Jewish community. Because the Evangelicals will go along with whatever meshugas the Israeli right can invent, and then some.

Netanyahu fans as well as many Republicans will try to make you believe that Donald Trump is a fluke, an aberration, a bug in an otherwise rational and coherent operating system. He isn’t. The Republican candidate may hold different views than Republicans and may not have grown in their garden, but he is nonetheless a natural outgrowth of the xenophobia, racism, anarchism and adherence to lurid conspiracy theories that have overtaken the GOP in recent years.

One can understand why most Israelis have preferred not to look a gift horse in the mouth, to take Republican support at face value and to view it as somehow unconnected to the party’s aversion to science, oppression of women, hostility to immigrants, fear of minorities and racially-tinged attitude towards America’s first black president. Israelis yearn for international love. All too often, they are rejected for irrational reasons, such as the UNESCO vote on Thursday denying the Jewish ties to Jerusalem. They’ll take support wherever they can get it.

But just like Trump, the GOP’s unequivocal, unqualified and unquestioning support is no fluke. It is not an aberration. It’s not the exception, but the rule, part of the same loony-tune GOP tapestry that found itself anointing Donald Trump. Accepting Netanyahu’s basic pessimistic view of the Middle East is one thing, but how rational is it, really, for presidential contenders of a serious party to sound as if their statements on Israel were formulated at Likud Party Headquarters?

How logical is it for American politicians who propose to lead the free world to declare that the first thing they’ll do in the White House is phone Netanyahu (Carly Fiorina), that Palestinians should be moved to Egypt (Ben Carson) that there’s no two-state solution to be had (Marco Rubio) that Judea and Samaria belong to Israel (Mike Huckabee) that they’ll move the American Embassy to Jerusalem (Ted Cruz) or, the blockbuster of this political season, that they’ll tear up the Iran nuclear deal on their first day in the White House, as Trump halfheartedly and his deputy Mike Pence have enthusiastically promised?

Seriously? That’s the first thing they’ll do? Tear up a deal signed by the world’s major powers, ratified by the United Nations Security Council and supported by the entire international community? Create an immediate diplomatic crisis and risk war in the Middle East? Really? And this passes for “rational?"

The echo-chamber discourse between Netanyahu and the GOP bestows a sense of legitimacy and reasonableness on Netanyahu in particular and the Israeli right wing in general. It allowed many Israelis to pretend that their government’s position was within the bounds of the acceptable, because a major U.S. party, one that could return to the helm at any moment, supported it wholeheartedly. It alleviated Israel’s sense of isolation, because even when the world is against us, we’ll always have the GOP.

Now, along with Trump, this facade is collapsing. The GOP is in disarray. The Evangelicals are facing what could turn out to be a historic rupture. The Jews are running for their lives. Netanyahu’s Defensive Shield is crumbling. He could be facing a bad situation, with a Democratic President, that could go to worse, with a Democratic Senate, to worst of all, if the Republicans lose the House as well, a development that seemed unthinkable a short while ago but now? Not so much.

And make no mistake: Clinton might be “to the right” of Obama on Israel, but she is no less committed to pursuing a two state solution, and it won’t be along the delusional lines supported by Netanyahu and the GOP.

In a normal country, voters would be demanding the prime minister’s head for betting their house on a horse that not only seems destined to lose but also could collapse before the finish line. But be patient. This is no time to seek revenge. If the rosy predictions of Democrats and the hellish projections of Republicans are borne out, the composition of the next American Congress and Administration will supply more than enough consolation, satisfaction, entertainment and Schadenfreude for Netanyahu’s critics in Israel and abroad. And Trump will deserve all the credit.



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