Bibi Trump and Donald Netanyahu
They both see the world’s problems as opportunities to cement their hold on power.
SOURCE: THE NEW YORK TIMES
BY: THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
There are two countries that I’ve been professionally, emotionally and intellectually involved with my entire journalism career — the United States and Israel. I’ve never been more worried about both, because President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are essentially the same person, and they pose the same threat to their respective nations.
They are both men utterly without shame, backed by parties utterly without spine, protected by big media outlets utterly without integrity. They are both funded by a Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson. They are both making support for Israel a “Republican’’ cause — no longer a bipartisan one. And they each could shoot an innocent man in broad daylight in the middle of Fifth Avenue and their supporters would say the victim had it coming.
As a result, they are each free to cross red lines that their predecessors never dared to. Which is why I believe that four more years of Netanyahu, which is almost certain after Israel’s election on Tuesday, and six more years of Trump, which is a real possibility, will hasten the emergence of an America and an Israel where respect for civility, democracy, an independent judiciary and independent media are no longer examples for others to follow. Instead, both countries will be cautionary tales of how precious are the norms and institutions that bind a democracy, and how easily they can be undermined by leaders who will tell any lie, smear any competitor and wink at any extremist to stay in power.
Netanyahu’s first order of business will be to strike an agreement with his potential coalition partners, most of them far-right, pro-settler parties, in which, as Haaretz reported, those parties will agree to create legislation that gets rid of the multiple indictments for corruption looming in Bibi’s future — and in return he will agree to annex West Bank settlements to Israel. And Trump will somehow go along, maybe as part of his own peace plan. It is going to be a dirty business, for sure.
But what else could we expect? The parallels between Trump and Netanyahu are now deep and broad. Bibi has openly embraced a racist, anti-Arab Israeli party and racist, anti-Arab rhetoric, unlike any previous Israeli prime minister. At the same time, he has steadily been erasing the Green Line that separated Israel from the West Bank and its 2.5 million Palestinians — with the help of Trump’s ambassador to Israel — making it increasingly unlikely that Israel will ever separate itself from that area and increasingly likely that it will become a binational state in which Jews will enjoy rights that Palestinians will be denied.