Netanyahu-Trump parallels

10-06-2021 12:31 PM

BY Michael Jansen

In his struggle to remain Israeli prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu is following the destructive policies his friend and ally Donald Trump has adopted to reclaim the presidency in the US.

Both are narcissistic, opportunistic, ruthlessly authoritarian men, eager to exploit ethnic nationalism. To secure political advantage, they rule by division and exacerbating harmful divisions within their own countries. They demonise rather challenge rivals and opponents. They reign over their own entourages by playing individuals off against each other and changing personnel frequently. They cultivate and, in some cases, control media.

Trump retains his choke hold on the US Republican Party and is using it to scupper the agenda of his rival President Joe Biden who has made it his mission to secure bipartisan support for major reformist legislation. While the Democrats have a majority in the lower house of the US Congress, the Senate is split 50-50 although Vice President Kamala Harris can break deadlocks by voting in favour of initiatives blocked by the Republicans. But she cannot do this for every and any measure.

Netanyahu continues to hold sway over the right-wing Likud, the largest party in the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, as well as allied nationalist and religious parties. They give him 42 seats in the 120-member Knesset and, for the moment, he can count on the backing of another 17 members to achieve 59, just two short of a majority. For the time being, the 61 per cent majority has been conferred on the anti-Netanyahu “Change” coalition which he is determined to undermine by securing defectors in the parties comprising the coalition.

Both have stirred their loyalists to take action against opponents and criticised the elections they lost as fraudulent. This is hardly surprising as Netanyahu and Trump are, as the proverb goes, “birds of a feather,” members of a fowl brotherhood.

Trump’s main effort to unleash trouble was through the invasion by his followers of the US Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to confirm Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

Although five fatalities were connected to this violence and there was widespread outrage, Trump’s loyal followers and Republican lawmakers have done their utmost to play down the importance of the assault on the Capitol, the first ever by US citizens. Republicans have even blocked the formation of an independent commission to investigate this singular event.

Although Netanyahu called the Trump supporters’ attack on the Capitol “disgraceful” and alien to Israeli and US values, he has urged settlers to mount protests outside the homes of members of the right-wing Yamina party with the aim of compelling them to vote against the partyleader, Naftali Bennett. He has not only taken the party into the “Change” coalition but will also become prime minister if it wins a confirmation vote in the Knesset.Bennett addressed this issue when he said, “Over the last several weeks there has been a well-funded, managed campaign to pressure Yamina and New Hope MKs [Knesset members] and break them, to get them to vote against a new government. In this effort, all means are kosher.” ”Change” coalition member Avigdor Lieberman predicted that the Trump-driven assault at the “Capitol in Washington [could] happen” in Jerusalem, presumably against the Knesset.

As a result of these pressures Yamina legislators Nir Orbach and Idit Silman were given police protection and security details have been stepped up for judges, prosecutors and other officials.

Since last November’s US presidential election, Trump has called foul and demanded recounts of the vote in states where his Democrat rival Biden won by narrow margins. Republican state legislatures have also stiffened voting requirements with the object of excluding Black and Latino voters from casting ballots as the generally vote for Democrats. The hope is that limiting their numbers will enable the Republicans to gain Congressional seats in the 2022 mid-term election and undermine Biden’s legislative programme.

Netanyahu has echoed Trump by saying, “We are witnessing the greatest election fraud in the history of the country, [and] in my opinion in the history of any democracy.” Netanyahu warns that his opponents are “traitors” who will turn over Israeli land to the Palestinians.

Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet’s chief Nadav Argaman has warned officials to “issue a clear call to stop this discourse” which could lead to a “severe escalation in violent and inciting discourse.” Both Trump and Netanyahu have used social media to great effect to transmit messages to their respective publics. Trump has been barred from Facebook and Twitter.

Netanyahu continues to rage wherever he can.

The two men face legal prosecutions while out of office. Trump and his enterprises are under investigation in the US for misrepresenting the value of Trump holdings — raising values for investors and lowering values for taxmen — as well as other dubious business dealings. He is personally being sued for abusing women, fraudulent handling of an inheritance and inciting the January 6th rioting at the Capitol. These are but a few of the cases launched against Trump who lost immunity from prosecution once he left office on January 20th. If convicted on any charge he could be the first US president to go to prison.

Netanyahu is currently being tried in a Jerusalem court for breach of trust, bribery and fraud and has been told to relinquish all the ministerial posts he holds except caretaker prime minister. He, too, will lose immunity if and when he is no longer prime minister and if convicted he could be the second Israeli prime minister to serve time in jail.

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