Trump and Netanyahu Are Similar—and We Must Actively Resist Them Both
By Eetta Prince-Gibson
On Wednesday, February 15, U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold their first working meeting. It will be a crucial meeting for the two leaders—and for us, Israeli and American Jews.
As they meet, Netanyahu and Trump will reveal just how much they have in common. And they will provide us with a reminder of just how much we, Israeli and American Jewish progressives, also have in common.
Trump and Netanyahu share similar personal characteristics, strategies and world views. And that is why, together, we must actively resist them both.
Both men are arrogant, rich demagogues who prey on the poor and have nothing but contempt for the weak or the needy. They cynically appeal to identity politics, using fear-mongering and hatred to inflame tribal loyalties. They are both implementing blatantly xenophobic agendas in their foreign and domestic policies.
In their efforts to preserve themselves, they readily resort to lies (or alternative facts). They are both obsessed with the media, and they share a narcissistic sensitivity to perceived insults, a disturbing inability to accept substantive criticism and an authoritarian view of dissent as dangerous.
Both of them are bullies who can dish it out but, like most bullies, don’t want to take it. And they both love walls (although even Netanyahu didn’t try to get the Palestinians to pay for “their” wall.)
And yet, for all their bluster; their control over the executive, legislative and judicial branches; and the pathetically weak oppositions that pose no threats, both of them are weak, unpopular leaders, fearful for their personal and political futures.
And, of even more concern, both of them are operated by skilled puppeteers—Trump by the alt-right’s Steve Bannon and Netanyahu by the extremist Israeli right’s Naftali Bennet—who are pulling them towards apocalyptic abysses from which our countries will find it difficult to recover.
In the past few weeks, the Trump-Netanyahu bromance has already hit a few unpleasant snags. Yet whatever substantive disagreements do come up between them—whether over settlements, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, Iran, Syria, Russia—we can be sure that they will not reveal them. They need each other too much, and so, unlike the grimaces that former President Barack Obama and Netanyahu could barely hide, Trump and Netanyahu will smile broadly. Trump needs Netanyahu to serve as his fig leaf and refute any claims of anti-Semitism by showing that he is a supporter of Israel; Netanyahu, who will be only the fourth world leader to meet with Trump, needs the parley to bolster his shaky standing at home and abroad
Netanyahu has anointed himself as King of the Jewish World, but he has shown that he couldn’t care less about Jews. When Trump neglected to mention that Jews suffered in the Holocaust, Netanyahu, who never misses an opportunity to invoke the Holocaust, did not say a word. He has sent you representatives, such as Ron Dermer and Danny Danon, whose positions the majority of American Jews do not support. He openly supported Mitt Romney in 2012, even though a majority of American Jews hold liberal positions. He has embraced Trump’s nomination of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel—that same Friedman who has called other Jews kapos. And as Trump and Bannon foment anti-Semitism, leading to threats against Jewish Community Centers and to Jews’ individual and collective security, Netanyahu has remained silent. (Nor did Netanyahu care much about Mexican Jews when he tweeted his enthusiastic support for Trump’s wall to keep out the Mexicans.)
Trump and Netanyahu have joined forces, and we won’t be able to overcome the one without overcoming the other. Resistance to one of this Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dumber twinset requires resistance to the other.
Voice your opinions. You are not being disloyal to the Jewish state when you oppose the Land-Grab (“Regularization) Law, discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel or abuse of refugees. Contribute to civil society organizations in both Israel and the U.S.—right now, they are the best, and maybe the only, defense of our values that we have.
Make your opposition to the appointment of David Friedman known—to both Trump and Netanyahu. Make sure they understand that we will all be happy when Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of Israel—as long as it is simultaneously recognized as the capital of the Palestinian State, as part of a mutual, respectful peace agreement.
Reclaim what it means to be an American and an Israeli Jew. Just as Trump-Bannon does not define all of America, Netanyahu-Bennett does not personify Israel. Love of America requires us to oppose Trump’s abhorrent un-American policies; love of Judaism and Israel must lead us to oppose Netanyahu’s intolerably un-Jewish polices. Being pro-American doesn’t mean being misogynist, racist or Islamophobic any more than being pro-Israeli means being bigoted, intolerant or xenophobic.
Demonstrate loudly and fly our flags. Show Trump and Netanyahu both that we are determined progressives, compassionate human beings, nasty believers in a better world and proudly loyal American and Israeli Jews.