Monday, November 7, 2022

Reports of the demise of democratic Israel are. . .

Tom Friedman recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times headlined "The Israel We Knew Is Gone."  While the headline is a bit misleading and the piece is a little more nuanced than that, Friedman nonetheless paints a dire future for Israel.  In his eyes, we've pretty much become Orban's Hungary.

I don’t discount the seriousness of the situation.  Religious Zionism's Bezalel Smotrich, Otzma Yehudit's Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Noam's Avi Maoz hold despicable views.  Ben-Gvir, in particular, uses and encourages violence.

At this stage in his career, Netanyahu will do or say just about anything to get into and to stay in power in order to squash his trial.  Many critics often say Netanyahu is like Trump.  Wrong.  Netanyau is much smarter.  Trump most likely believes much of what he says.  Netanyahu knows better.

Trump was born a narcissist. Netanyahu has evolved into one in his effort to gain power and thereby, he hopes, stay out of jail.  He is more akin to Republican House leader and wanna-be Speaker Kevin McCarthy.  Both have sold their souls to get what they want or perceive they need.  For the literary baseball crowd, it's Damn Yankees without the music and dance.

Despite Friedman and others who would like to write Israel off, the fact is, to continue the baseball references, we're in the early innings.The coalition negotiations just started.  Yes, Netanyahu is desperate and could give the store away, destroying the courts, marginalizing Israeli Arabs, imposing religious strictures, and destroying whatever small slimmer of possibility that is left for reconciliation with our Palestinian neighbors.

On the other hand, Netanyahu is a very wily, conniving politician, usually three or four steps ahead of his allies and opponents.  In a recent op-ed, Times of Israel editor David Horovitz does an admirable job of analyzing the challenge Netanyahu will have negotiating between the monster he helped create and now relies on and his natural impulse to seek smooth sailing. 

Netanyahu has always been risk adverse.  As Prime Minister he withstood pressure from the right that would have embroiled Israel in Gaza and other wars. He also pushed back at pressure that would have had him take steps in (probably futile) efforts to make peace.