February 22, 2020

The Trump-Netanyahu Alliance

“Twenty-one years ago, Benzion Netanyahu, a scholar of medieval history and the father of an Israeli Prime Minister serving his first term, relaxed with a reporter at his home on Haportzim Street, in West Jerusalem, and wondered aloud if his boy, who went by “Bibi,” was made of the right stuff. Benzion was an uncompromising ideologue, a maximalist, and a member of the Revisionist movement. (The Revisionist hymn included the line “the Jordan has two banks; this one is ours, the other one, too.”) He despised the liberal élites. They had stifled his academic career, he believed, and weakened the country with their prattle about making peace with the Palestinians. Supporters of the Labor Party, the dominant force in Israeli politics for decades, did not, in his mind, live in the real world. “Jewish history is in large measure a history of holocausts,” he said that day.

Benzion died in 2012. He was a hundred and two. Any lingering worries he might have had that his son lacked the political cunning and the ideological mettle to put an end to the two-state expectations raised by the Oslo peace accords were misplaced. Benjamin Netanyahu, who won a fifth term last week, has proved himself shrewd, cynical, and willing to do and to say anything to survive in office.

Practicing a politics of division, he targets enemies in the press, the academy, and the courts. Increasingly, he finds his global allies in the ever-growing club of the Illiberal International, from the Sunni Arab leaders in his own region to Viktor Orbán, in Hungary; Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil; and Vladimir Putin, in Russia. He has determined that the world no longer cares very much about the Palestinians or about democratic niceties. He has marginalized the left––even the center-left. The “peace camp” that Benzion loathed now barely exists.”

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