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.