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‘He won because of race’ — Netanyahu’s upset anticipated Trump’s

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As the Trump administration forms, one thing that’s clear is that Everyone Loves Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu would seem to be a role model, as a swaggering demagogical politician who knows how to wield resentments, racial tensions, and social media as levers of power; and several members of the Trump team have praised the Israeli PM over recent days and months.

American political culture and Israeli culture really are joined at the hip. It bears reflecting that the mainstream media and pollsters were nearly as surprised by Netanyahu’s rightwing come-from-behind victory in Israel last year as they were by Trump’s three weeks ago. In an era of conservative counter-revolution, Netanyahu fostered some of the same political fevers that spring as Trump did this fall.

Clintonites backed the loser in that election, too: Yitzhak (Buji) Herzog. And the day after the election in March 2015, Paul Begala, who worked for Herzog, explained what had happened to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in a leaked email from Wikileaks. Look at all the forward-echoes to Trump, from Muslim baiting to big rallies to the effects of immigration:

Just as patterns of immigration are moving the US left, patterns of immigration are moving Israel right. I have never seen anything like Bibi’s furious surge to the right in the last 4 days. Nothing like it in America. He had robo-calls calling the President “Hussein Obama, the Muslim,” he had ads saying the Arabs will vote in droves. He accused [Yitzhak] Herzog of wanting to divide Jerusalem. Bibi did not win because of Iran. He won because of race. He cannibalized the smaller parties on the right: Bennett’s Jewish Home lost 4 seats, Shas lost 4 seats, Lieberman’s party lost 5 seats, United Torah lost 1. That is a 14 seat decline on the right. Bibi gained 10….

All the smart guys in Tel Aviv thought Bibi was having a nervous breakdown. In the US you could never get away with those kind of racist appeals. But, man, did it work….

We also did zero rallies in the final days – Buji doesn’t like them and he is not a rah-rah guy. This gave all the bandwagon effect to Bibi. I… am deeply depressed that I failed such a good guy in such a big race.

“In the US you could never get away with those kind of racist appeals.” Hmmmm.

Now here are some of the testimonials to rightwing Israel from the Trump administration in waiting.

Kellyanne Conway of the Trump transition team, on the centrality of Netanyahu to the Trumpian worldview:

“[Mitt] Romney in the last four years, I mean, has he been around the globe doing something on behalf of the United States of which we’re unaware? Did he go and intervene in Syria, where they’re having a massive humanitarian crisis?” Conway asked. “Has he been helpful to Mr. Netanyahu?”

After Netanyahu’s speech to the Congress in March 2015, Tom Price, the new Health and Human Services secretary-appointee, who is a Georgia congressman and member of the Israel allies caucus in the House, praised the PM over President Obama, who was “appease”-ing Iran:

“At a time when there are grave concerns over Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, it is my hope that Congress, and more importantly the Obama Administration, will listen carefully to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s perspective. We cannot turn a blind eye toward or attempt to appease an Iran that would further destabilize the Middle East and threaten the survival of Israel. Such a situation would be profoundly dangerous to the well-being of the American people, our interest and our allies.”

How about Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor Trump chose for United Nations ambassador. From Haaretz:

Under her leadership, South Carolina became one of the first two states to enact legislation outlawing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel….

In January, Haley championed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objections to the 2014 Iran deal in the Republican Party’s official response to President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union. While not mentioning Israel by name, Haley said that were the GOP to control the White House, “we would make international agreements that were celebrated in Israel and protested in Iran, not the other way around.”

Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner on the controversial Steve Bannon:

“All I know about Steve is my experience working with him. He’s an incredible Zionist and loves Israel,” Kushner told Forbes.

Jewish News Service report on the Attorney General choice, Sen. Jeff Sessions:

The Mobile Area Jewish Federation last year presented Sen. Jeff Sessions with its first “Yedid L’Yisrael” [friend of Israel] award, a sculpture fashioned from a Hamas rocket that had been fired at Israel. The federation praised his consistently pro-Israel voting record and his advocacy of “the principle that it is in the national interest of the U.S. to ally itself with Israel.” Sessions has earned a zero rating from the Arab-American Institute.

Times of Israel on CIA pick Mike Pompeo:

Pompeo is a reliable backer of Israel and last November had high praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after they met on an Israel tour.

Pompeo tweeted on [Nov. 17]: “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” Pompeo had warned last year that the agreement is “empowering an Iranian regime that is intent on destroying America.”

Of course the feeling is mutual: rightwing Israeli politicians say Trump’s election means there will never be a Palestinian state, and Jewish folks in Jerusalem praise Trump to the heavens.

Apropos of Begala’s email, Netanyahu was more racist than Trump, at the end of his campaign anyway. And Netanyahu went largely unpunished for his conduct in the United States. Liberal Zionists were appalled, but it’s not as if the Jewish establishment generally came down on Netanyahu. Even President Obama’s criticism was reserved. By contrast, many Jewish leaders have expressed sharp concerns about Trump’s language, and his elevation of Steve Bannon and the alt-right, thereby exhibiting a double standard for white nationalism and Jewish nationalism.

Let us return to Begala’s sad lament for a good man defeated by these intolerant forces: Herzog was whupped. But this raises the question of whether it is possible to defeat Netanyahu with a lukewarm version of Zionism, and, in turn, whether it is possible to defeat Trump with a lukewarm Israel-loving centrist.

The political cultures of the two countries are actually connected; and the American left is paying a price for that connection. As Scott Roth writes, “Israel is a dead weight on the Democratic Party keeping it from reforming.” And so until Democratic politicians take on Netanyahu directly, revitalizing the lib-left, we are condemned to see Netanyahu-like results in the U.S.

Thanks to Todd Pierce.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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10 Responses

  1. Blownaway on November 29, 2016, 6:36 pm

    So much for America first! I wonder how trumps minions are going to feel when they realize it’s Israel first?

  2. JLewisDickerson on November 30, 2016, 7:02 am

    The interior decor in the photo of Trump and Netanyahu (taken in Trump’s penthouse at the Trump Tower, I assume) makes me nauseous! Apparently Trump has some kind of a candelabra fetish. Or, perhaps they are tributes to Liberace.

  3. Raphael on November 30, 2016, 8:40 am

    I think it actually that Trump worships the golden calf as one of his gods, as king of the world, his other god, or idol, he looks at beginning every new day at 5 AM, is the god of me, me, me.

    A Roman trait, that went down through the generations, secretly, spoken about during Masonic, Odd fellow rituals; if not by Trump personally certainly by those under him.

    • Mooser on November 30, 2016, 3:55 pm

      Wait, wait! Let us not forget that Jews in the US voted for Hilary Clinton by, by… shoot, I forgot. “Yonah” what was it again?

  4. David Doppler on November 30, 2016, 5:37 pm

    I think your parallels are strained and overblown. It is true that Israeli racism gives license to racism elsewhere, especially anti-Muslim racism, but beyond that?

    Herzog had none of Clinton’s flaws – corruption, lying, two-facedness. [Maybe a lack of charisma held them both back.]

    I think you over-estimate the racism of the 52M Americans who voted for Trump. There are racists in there, for sure, but I think most voted for change, for which they are enthusiastic, not for race, fascism, white supremacy, or other fringes the losing elites have been conflating to all Trump voters. A halt to the demonization and denigration of American history and culture, maybe, which is different from asserting White Supremacy. Diversity yes, anti-White people, no. Anti-all-of-the-American-social-institutions-de-Tocqueville-praised, no. Acceptance of other cultures, yes, praise for national anthem kneeling, no. There were a lot of white Obama voters who switched to Trump, or stayed home, and they weren’t resonating with any of the feelings of Netanyahu’s ultra-right-wingers who were persuaded to concentrate their plurality vote in Likud, against their inclination to go farther right with Bennett. Those Americans wanted a change in direction, and, especially, a change in the voice of the elite establishment, which has lost all credibility.

    • Mooser on November 30, 2016, 9:14 pm

      .” A halt to the demonization and denigration of American history and culture, maybe, which is different from asserting White Supremacy. “

      Oh please. Anyway, the Trump administration’s first order of business is doing away with those too un-American institutions Medicare and Social Security. The first order of business.. Now, that’s change.

      And then they will take away all the good stuff which was given to “anti-white people” and give it to you.

  5. wondering jew on November 30, 2016, 6:14 pm

    Two other commonalities between the two elections: the mediocrity of Phil Weiss’s analysis of both events. The utter non questioning of the pre election polls by Phil Weiss of both events.

    There has never been an election that I voted for the Republican candidate for president, but I have never been this scared of a Republican candidate as I am of trump. This vulgar clown with his kkk endorsement , his “Lock her up” rhetoric. His wink and nod to jew haters in the yellen, soros, blankfein commercial. His blatant anti muslim, blatant anti hispanic rhetoric, ( “Mexican judge”) his history of anti black racism (birther), and mondoweiss chose to sit out the election and only in the aftermath hurls its deepest insult: you’re just like bibi.
    There is a clear tendency in US presidential elections, democrats have won 6 of 7 of the last contests in terms of popular vote, two of which have been overturned by the electoral college. Do we hear one word from phil weiss against the electoral college, not even a whisper. One man, one vote is good enough for the middle east, but in america we accept the electoral college without a protest.

    In israel, the right wing has won or essentially tied, every election since 1977. Any competent analysis of the israeli polls before the 2015 elections showed there was ZERO chance for a left wing coalition. Herzog was predicted to get more seats, true, but he would need Lapid to form a coalition and Lapid scorned the zoabis in 2013 and there was no reason to think he had changed his mind. It was all smoke and mirrors swallowed as if nutritious by mw’s superficial analysis and the feckless white house.

    The Democratic party is not sure where to turn whether towards its energetic confidently liberal base or towards the center, to court the fence sitters in suburbia. A strong candidate rather than a weak candidate can make a big difference as well and certainly if we’re still a democracy four years hence, trump will be the status quo and the democrat will be change and defeating trump is definitely doable, whether with a Joe Biden centrist or a Bernie Sanders leftist . (I mention both as types not actual candidates. Not to be ageist, but they’re too old.)

    Israel is certainly a negative to the left wing of the democratic party and any proposal to move the party to the left will involve democrats who are weak on israel. (Nowhere near the anti Israel sentiment of mw or the mw comments section, fer sure, but certainly closer to Keith Ellison in heart, if not in courage of his convictions.) It is the general leftness that will bring with it the anti Israel sentiment. The i-p issue is not the priority to the grass roots, but rather wall street is. But the natural place of leftists is to be anti Israel (in2016) despite the tumult of the region and the Democratic party will choose grass roots enthusiasm over wooing the fence sitters. We will see how the strategy works in2018. Usually Dem voters are too lazy or busy to vote in off year elections, we’ll see if Keith Ellison can get them to the polls.

    • Mooser on November 30, 2016, 7:13 pm

      “Yonah”, how was the election?

      ‘Rough, rough!’

      And Trump makes us feel like we are balancing on a…

      ‘Roof, roof!

      • wondering jew on November 30, 2016, 8:22 pm

        ruth, ruth.

        punchline: i should have said dimaggio?

  6. gamal on December 6, 2016, 10:01 am

    “Netanyahu was more racist than Trump,”

    do you know “the way of the emigrants: Badawi and Catherine Simon in America” by Louis Farshee

    when Jews and Syrians made your britches (and Hats) and formed businesses together and engaged in warm fraternal relations. another vanished world.

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