Parallel political upheavals in Israel and the United States could spell great danger for their alliance. In the United States, the Republican Party is about to nominate as its presidential candidate a charismatic and erratic authoritarian. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just consolidated a government that is among the most right-wing in the country’s history.
On the surface, of course, one might imagine that these parallel developments could bring the two countries closer together, in a kind of axis of conservatism. That’s what former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee had in mind when he observed, on a recent trip to Israel, that Trump’s repeated calls for closing America’s borders to Muslims would just bring the United States into line with Israeli thinking. But there’s a big difference between the cases (even leaving aside Israel’s special circumstances or the fact that its citizenry is already 20 percent Muslim or Christian Arab). In Israel, the government’s inclination toward tribal authoritarianism is the product of a growing religious, nationalist, and majoritarian trend. American Trumpismo, by contrast, is a last-ditch defense of conservative whites who see that their majority position is fast eroding. Netanyahu and his ultra-rightist coalition partners look like Israel’s future, whereas the version of the Republican Party that Donald Trump would lead appears headed for the dustbin of history.
The two countries are both changing radically, but they are moving in very different directions.
Israel is the clearer case. At the annual Herzliya conference in June, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who was Netanyahu’s defense minister in a previous coalition government, excoriated Likud and its leader for putting Israel’s government into “the hands of fanatics” who are clamping down on the country’s proudly independent judiciary and repressing dissent in education, culture, and civil society. “If it walks like a fascist, talks like a fascist, barks like a fascist, then it is a fascist,” said Barak in astonishing remarks. He also spoke
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