I’m not a big fan of Benjamin Netanyahu, haven’t been since the Republican Congress invited the prime minister to speak while Barack Obama was still president. The invitation was intended to be a slap in the face, and while Obama may have gone on to more important matters, I’m not that gracious—bet you didn't know that.
But now Netanyahu, desperate for votes and facing criminal prosecution as well as removal from office, has turned to a racist anti-Arab party whose ideology has been likened to Nazism by one influential rabbi. The organization, Otzma Yehudit (or Jewish Power) has a long history of violence against Palestinians, favors the expulsion of Arabs from Israel, and bans intermarriage between Jews and Arabs. For Netanyahu to align himself with this ultra-right nationalist group shows another desperate measure by a desperate man whose abandonment of principle is already a twice-told tale.
Speaking of which (not much of a segue, I know) Donald Trump has followed a similarly unprincipled path. Remember, there was the 2015 reluctance to disavow the Ku Klux Klan, then the 2017 Charlotteville reference to good white supremacists, the winking at the ongoing bigotry of Steve King, the pardon of sadistic racist Joe Arpaio. Last week when Trump refused to show any alarm at our new Coast Guard Nazi’s plan to eradicate all humanity (second option: liberals and CNN commentators) the circle was complete.
Jews in the United States and even in Israel are irate, but Netanyahu, like Trump, sees only the immediate gain: two of the right-wing radicals could win seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. (One of them, Mr. Ben Ari, was denied a visa to the United States in 2012 as a member of a terrorist organization. The other, Mr. Ben Gvir, has acknowledged having a picture in his home of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians while they were praying at a mosque.)
And Steve King could win in Iowa. Again.
So far no word from Jared Kushner, self-styled Middle-East expert and pal of big Ben; though it’s difficult to imagine that even Kushner will go as far as Otzma Yehudit to keep daddy-in-law happy. But we shall see.
Netanyahu meanwhile has hit back at critics by calling them traitors and Islamic sympathizers—more autocratic eyewash of course and a staple of our own president's playbook. (Remember the NFL players—those sons of bitches?) Whether it’s the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Venezuela, or now apparently Israel, the tactics of the autocrat are the same: hide behind the flag, impugn the patriotism of anyone who opposes you, and count the votes.