Trump And Netanyahu

Every once in a while, we Americans need to remind ourselves that our problems are not unique. As we agonize over the daily offenses against sanity, humanity and ethics emanating from the Trump White House, other countries are also suffering under “leaders” concerned more for their personal aggrandizement than the interests of their citizens. Some of them–like Trump– were even elected.

Which brings me to the recent acquiescence of Israel’s Netanyahu to Trump’s demand that Israel bar two American lawmakers from entering the country.

Trump babbled nonsense about his support of Israel and the “weakness” Bibi would show if he allowed the two to enter the country. The reality–as usual with Trump–was far different; refusing U.S. lawmakers’ entry was an unprecedented and offensive act against elected officials of a close ally. In fact, it was so unprecedented–and so harmful to Israel’s own interests–that even AIPAC issued a reproof. (If you are unfamiliar with AIPAC, it is Israel’s most devoted lobby in the U.S., known for slavish defense of virtually anything Israel does.)

I think it is notable that some of the most severe criticisms have come from AmericanJewish organizations and pundits. If Trump assumed he would get plaudits from American Jews, he was sadly mistaken. (That mistake probably explains yesterday’s anti-Semitic outburst questioning the loyalty of any American Jew who dares to criticize his position on Israeli leadership or policies, let alone any American Jew who has the gall to vote Democratic.)

Tom Friedman pulled no punches in the New York Times:

Trump — with the knowing help of Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu — is doing something no American president and Israeli prime minister have done before: They’re making support for Israel a wedge issue in American politics.

Few things are more dangerous to Israel’s long-term interests than its becoming a partisan matter in America, which is Israel’s vital political, military and economic backer in the world.

I particularly liked this column by Josh Marshall. Marshall is Jewish, and the editor of Talking Points Memo. 

Let me comment on Israel’s apparent decision to bar entry to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Israel is supposedly doing this because the two support BDS. As it happens, I’m not even sure this is entirely true. Tlaib, who is Palestinian American and has relatives in the territories, does. Omar has actually made contradictory or equivocal comments about BDS. Regardless, it simply doesn’t matter. They are elected members of the United States Congress. They are part of the US government and their treatment bears directly on the respect accorded our system of government or interference with our democratic system. The idea that a government which has long benefited from US protection and aid would do such a thing is outrageous….

This betrays an established and dangerous pattern with Donald Trump: his personal alliances always come before allegiance to country, law and Constitution. This is not surprising and it is of a piece with his collusion and tacit alliance with Russia during the 2016 election.

What you think about Omar and Tlaib is irrelevant. I have criticized Omar when I think it is merited. All that matters here is that they are elected representatives. Punishing or excluding them is a strike against our democratic system. An ally should never do such a thing.

Marshall also pointed out that this pettiness was emphatically not in Israel’s own interests.

One final, important point. This does not even make sense from the point of view of narrow Israeli self-interest – not in Israeli or Zionist terms. The US has two major parties and they frequently rotate in power. Omar and to a lesser extent Tlaib are controversial in US politics but they have many ardent supporters in the Democratic Party. They are both women of color. The Israeli government under Netanyahu has increasingly identified itself with the GOP and actively worked with the GOP against Democrats as the GOP has become more associated with white nationalism. Democrats will be back in power again. The party is increasingly based on a multiracial political coalition. Sowing antagonism at a level so deep and visceral is obvious folly.

Marshall’s final paragraph draws a painfully obvious parallel to the occupant of the Oval Office:

The truth is that this isn’t Israeli policy or even precisely Netanyahu policy. This is an electoral gambit. Israel has an election next month and Netanyahu is in a fight for his political life. He may even be in a fight for his freedom since remaining in office is his best play to delay or quash corruption charges. This is an effort to juice outrage and support from the Israeli far right.

When countries are governed by people whose mantra is “It’s all about me,” the interests of the country take a back seat.

Far, far back.


  1. Thank you, as always, Sheila!

    Bibi’s shelf life has clearly expired and he should go as a result of this upcoming election with a new government being formed just as Trump should definitely go in 2020 if not sooner. Bibi’s sane, I think, where Trump clearly is not and the added corruption they have both engendered is always corrosive and warps governance. Neither the Israelis nor us should tolerate it in any form; in Bibi’s case due to him being PM far too long via alliances with divisive far-right wing zealots to stay in power and in Trump’s sorry case the reasons should be far more than obvious.

  2. Trump’s “personal alliances always come before his allegiance to country, law and the Constitution.” And does this not also apply to so many of his supporters as well? Think for a moment of all of the alliances that hold together so much of the corrupt economy, the alliances that cement the delusional to extremist religions, the alliances within professions that cover up corruption and harm to the public, the alliances within the media that sow doubt, fear and hysteria. Trump is not alone in his “me first” approach to life as was so well demonstrated in the election of 2016.

  3. Knowing little about the Jewish religion…I’m ASSUMING that Judaism IS a religion…I question the term “American Jews” versus “Israeli Jews”, or any other designation. Are there differences in their religious beliefs or are those differences political? I suppose that it is possible with Jews because here in this country we now have Republican Christianity vs. Christianity. When the centuries old Jewish religion which always stood together to survive is fighting one another over money and politics; my heart cries out, “Is God dead”? As Frances Farmer once wrote in an essay titled “God Is Dead” and won a trip to Russia in a contest held by a Seattle, Washington newspaper. She posed her question based on her prayers to find her lost red hat being answered and her friend’s prayers asking that her mother live through a serious illness being ignored. We are far beyond finding lost hats and one life being saved and a newspaper essay contest; we are fighting for survival as the egos of world leaders seek photo ops.

  4. Support for Israel, no matter how Draconian their policies maybe toward the Palestinians remains strongest in the Evangelical Community. The US Bible Thumper’s equate criticism of the state of Israel’s policies with anti-Semitism. The pillar of support for President Agent Orange is the bible thumper’s. President Agent Orange’s explanations should be seen in this light.

    Another blunder by President Agent Orange is his offer to “buy” Greenland. He labeled the purchase of Greenland as a “real estate deal”. Of course Greenland is not an uninhibited island. Greenland has people living there, which means he thinks he can “buy” the people also.

    When the Danes said No Deal – Greenland is not for sale. President Agent Orange went into a pout and called off a state visit to Denmark.

    “It shows why we now more than ever should consider [fellow] European Union countries as our closest allies. The man is unpredictable,” said Morten Østergaard, leader of the Danish Social Liberal party. “Reality surpasses imagination.”

    “Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

    “Reality surpasses imagination”, is a great description of the Regime of President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence.

  5. Hi Sheila. Never miss your column . Couldn’t agree more in this one. This move by Trump and Bibi will hurt our relations with Israel for a long time. I think Trump got 25% of the Jewish vote. I would suspect this will reduce it even more

  6. I don’t follow Israel as much as I should because in my nearly 60 years, they have been fighting over that area all my life. Frankly, I wish they would knock it off. I just know that all Jewish centers and synagogues in town are protected by armed guards 24/7/365. That alone should tell you that their troubles are worldwide. Hmmm.

    I was hopeful yesterday when Italy’s right wing government nearly collapsed but then saw this morning that our cable provider added Fox Spews network to our programming. Thankfully that channel in not part of our package. It’s a cancer on western society.

  7. AIPAC supports American federal politicians and candidates with millions in dark money for their campaigns. AIPAC cannot legally be a PAC so it has used loopholes in our lobbying regulations to support campaigns of politicians that favor Israel. After being elected those same politicians go to work in DC to push for millions/billions of dollars to support Israel. It is one more way to rob U.S. citizens of money that could be spent at home to support necessary programs to support our own citizens.

    Like most American PACs, AIPAC manages to suck money out of our taxpayer coffers but in this case the money goes to Israel. I get angry every time I even see the term AIPAC.

  8. Frankly, I find the policies of the Netanyahu government abhorrent and I sometimes wonder what Golda Meir would say if she were alive today. Israel’s turn to the far right and move toward the creation of a theocracy does not bode well for Middle East Peace. America would be well served to give greater consideration to how our foreign aid is spent.

  9. Trump is backed financially by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. She is also a mega donor to the GOP party and GOP candidates. Trump even gave Miriam the Medal of Freedom award simply because she gives him so much money. Yes, Trump has managed to soil everything that he touches.

    Miriam owns, and is the publisher of, the largest newspaper in Israel. This newspaper has been compared to Fox News. It’s main purpose is to influence readers by publishing right wing opinion pieces and claim that they are providing news.

  10. Left unnoticed and uncommented on in the general dismay is that Trump has once again promoted the idea that “voting for Democrats is disloyalty” — a theme that he will return to oftener and louder as the election gets closer, and he has more and more reason to denounce and discredit the democratic (with a small d) process.

  11. Peggy; Israel today is definitely NOT the Israel nations voted into statehood in 1948. Does history reflect the true decline into non-acceptance and money based politics we send billions of dollars to? We can’t even compare this with the Catholic religion hiding and covering up child molest for at least decades if not centuries; Israel is taking in money to support their separatist government while the Catholics are paying out money to victims and for cover ups in their churches. Nothing humanitarian in either instance; this is an ugly world on many levels today, where do we turn for truth and acceptance?

  12. Bernie Sanders was the first presidential candidate to recommend that Israel not receive billions in aid after Bibi (who now has an arrest warrant in Spain) declined entry of our two congresswomen.

    I believe one of the congresswomen quickly followed up with a stop aid to Israel. It’s ironic that we give aid to Israel so they can buy weapons or missile defense systems from our defense industry. We are basically subsidizing their military. Maybe if you weren’t stealing land from Palestinian peoples and considered the largest terrorist organization in the region, you wouldn’t need such a military presence.

    I would say the wedge has been cast against progressive democrats who could give a shit about AIPAC and their donations. Once again, this is a predictor of the future as the younger generations seize power on a national level. Zionist Israel may need to find another benefactor.

  13. NY Times “Trump accuses Jewish Democrats of ‘Great Disloyalty. ”

    Now where have we heard that trope before?

  14. Todd,
    We are not just subsidizing the Israel military, we are subsidizing the US military industrial complex. Our tax money doing double duty as it were.

  15. I consider myself a friend of Israel from the time Truman recognized this state in 1948 when I was a junior at IU, having just spent some time in the South Pacific. I do not consider myself to be a friend of Netanyahu who, like Trump, cannot act in a representative capacity with a mindset that only speaks to representation of self. Count me as a Rabin aficionado. (Parenthetically, my daughter and I are going to Independence, Missouri, for a few days after Labor Day to visit an old friend, Dr. Niel M. Johnson, retired archivist of the Truman Library there. Niel knows a lot about how Truman came to recognize Israel out of the blue in 1948, a recognition such fledgling state sorely needed in trying to survive in a hostile environment.

    Netanyahu’s courtship of far right politicians has little to do with political belief and a lot to do with his desperate attempts to maintain power to fend off his own indictment on various charges. Trump is in a similar position and this may in part explain his affinity for neo-Nazi and other such right wing groups (among other such diversionary tactics as the Greenland Purchase, recession panic, White House chaos etc.). Ideally, both should wind up in jail.

    Fortunately for Trump but not for Netanyahu, our AG tells us that a DOJ rule supersedes the law and that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Uh, I wonder how that would work out in practice if Trump came out of the Oval Office with a machine gun and mowed down a dozen protesters at the White House fence, and if re-elected, do more of the same. Would We the People have to wait another four years before he could be indicted? Does political power equal immunity from criminal liability? Can any “rule” provide for that, and but for Barr, what’s to keep the DOJ from ending such a rule that is in clear derogation of the Equal Protection of the Laws Clause?

    The pretense undergirding the “rule” is that indicting a president hampers him or her in carrying out their official duties, but I here note that the dead protesters are a bit hampered, too, and that murderers should be not only hampered but imprisoned at once pending indictment and trial, and that our continuing failure to rectify this anomaly in the law is totally at odds with this, our experiment in democracy.

  16. There are many people around the world who believe that they are both entitled to and better at running our lives than we are, at least from their point of view. While Putin and Trump and Pence are notable examples there are many. Kim Jong Un, Bashar al-Assad, Mitch McConnell, Bibi Netanyahu and several institutions come to mind too. We of course are aware of the struggle for supremacy around the world but have always lived in the comfort of our Constitution which assumes not us not here not now for power over us.

    We also are aware that our ancestors fought for the end of slavery in all of the legitimate wars that we fought.

    The idea that we have the right to our own lives including the consequences of our mistakes as well as our accomplishments is a very fragile one, never in our lives more than now. The power people are beating the freedom people at the moment in defining humanity.

    Wow. How did that even happen?

  17. Pete,

    I don’t understand your comment that “We also are aware that our ancestors fought for the end of slavery in all of the legitimate wars that we fought.” Is that sarcasm? If not, is there evidence to support that? I know of none. And I don’t know the term “legitimate wars” means or includes.

    While 370,000 sons and grandsons of slaves fought in WWI, St. Louis and Houston erupted in racial violence. When they returned home hoping for an America that had been “made safe for democracy,” they found that nothing had changed and essentially nothing did for black people until the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

    I ask that you read some of the NYT’s “1619 Project” from this past Sunday. There’s little in there to indicate that the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th and 14th Amendments had much material effect on the lives or opportunities of blacks. By withdrawing troops from the South,
    Andrew Johnson ended and nullified the good that was being achieved by reconstruction. By reneging on the General Sherman’s “40 acres and a mule” pledge that would have meant so much to so many newly liberated blacks, Johnson effectively imposed a permanent form of poverty on freed slaves that was not addressed for a hundred years. Blacks were discriminated against by the Army and some were killed for being black after serving in WWI and WWII. When our current president rails against people of color, I begin to question the long-term efficacy of Johnson’s politically suicidal effort to bring some balance to the issue of racial justice.

    Another plug for “The 1619 Project.” If the NYT facts and interpretations bear out, it appears to me there is a screaming need for a thorough rewrite of American history and an apology for the superficiality of earlier analyses. And it is difficult to read this material without re-thinking the issue of reparations. Sometimes I feel like my adopted state of South Carolina, aided and abetted by Mississippi and Louisiana and other supporters of the Confederacy, has formulated much of America’s domestic policy since 1779, or perhaps long before, and continues to do so today in the person of Mitch McConnell and his traitorous party.

  18. I have always been a supporter of the state of Israel and have long been upset by Netanyahu. He’s like Trump in so many ways. Trump loves intervening in others’ affairs (as Netanyahu has in ours), and it’s entirely possible Trump was trying to give Netanyahu a boost in his lagging election chances. Netanyahu took full advantage of it and shouldn’t have.

    I so wish Israel would elect someone else who would surely make more friends for Israel in the world. Then I wish the U.S. would elect someone other than Trump who would also restore the respect and trust of our traditional allies around the world.

  19. “He (Netanyahu) may even be in a fight for his freedom since remaining in office is his best play to delay or quash corruption charges. This is an effort to juice outrage and support from the Israeli far right.”
    Here again, is more proof of Trump’s fascination with other leaders who are corrupt.
    Oh Norris, your great comment made me think of the Dali Lama; in the sense that it’s something similar to what he would say.
    And, in general, I would say to those who keep reminding me that the U.S. is a much younger country than the others and will get it right. I say younger doesn’t necessarily mean better… we may be younger but we simply inherited and enforced the dirty tricks and bad behavior of those who came here from someplace else.

  20. The Danes have not been shy about striking back at President Agent Orange concerning the buying Greenland:

    Mette Frederiksen is the Prime Minister of Denmark and a woman, so in Trumpworld she could bullied.

    She had previously said Trump’s Greenland proposal was absurd.
    Trump told reporters at the White House later: “I thought the prime minister’s statement that it was an absurd idea was nasty.

    “It was not a nice way of doing it.
    Side Bar since when has President Agent Orange ever worried about being nasty to others?? Never, would be the correct answer.

    Anyway here are some reactions from Denmark:
    “There are already many good reasons to think that the man is a fool, and now he has given another good reason,” Eva Flyvholm, the foreign policy chair for Denmark’s Red-Green Alliance, told Danish media.

    Villy Søvndal, a former foreign minister, said the decision “confirms that Donald Trump is a narcissistic fool”.

    Søvndal told the Danish newspaper Berlingske that Trump’s decision showed he was unaware of the basic rules of diplomacy. “If he had been a clown in a circus, you could probably say that there is considerable entertainment value. The problem is that he is the president of the most powerful nation in the world,” he said.

    Side Bar: The Danes have certainly saved a lot of money, time and facade smiles since he cancelled his trip to Denmark.

  21. like war,like peace,maybe some media vids on the present,and past,living conditions of the Palistines,as a whole…
    or dose bibi also control the media also? if we asked,back in 1948, what right did the jews have to take,palistine,under any circumstances? sure,maybe they,the jews wanted a home,but like any other religion, the force,the war,the killings remain,to take,again and again. if the Congress women were barred from entering,then we should bar,the donations we make as a goverment,and bring back the nukes,from Isreal…

  22. Terry, I can see why my words confused.

    The point that I was trying clumsily to make is that if we had lost any of our “legitimate” wars (Revolution, Civil, I & 2) slavery in the form of others having power over us instead of the degree of freedom the Constitution has always protected for us would have resulted. There would have been a difference in who among us was enslaved and by whom but the Constitution has always said, even if we didn’t always practice it, that all are free with the exactly the same rights.

    Of course that’s all at risk again.

  23. When two elephants in heat copulate, the grass in between and underneath suffer. To Lester and May, it is a perverted paraphrasing of a well known African proverb: When two elephants fight, the grass in between suffers.

    I lived and worked in Jerusalem for three years at the YMCA across the street from the King David Hotel. Netanyahu came across the street from King David to have a ‘sidebar’ conversation in our 3 Arches Restaurant. He would, without exception, leave without paying the tab or tipping the waiter. In consultation with friends who managed King David, we discover this is routine behavior and Netanyahu’s reputation known by all restaurants he frequents; and you are advised not to hold him accountable. You might say then … Trump and Netanyahu are kissing cousins … thus the perverted proverb? I reserve no respect for either.

Comments are closed.