When asked whether I am a citizen of both Israel and the U.S., my half-joking answer of the last few years has been: "Yes, I have the privilege of being a citizen of two countries with dysfunctional political systems." It usually elicited a good chuckle.
After spending about three months in the U.S. watching close-up the 2022 elections and their aftermath, while also watching the October Israeli election and its aftermath from afar, and while preparing to return to Jerusalem, I'm not sure my standard response is all that funny anymore.
Politics and government in both countries appear to be dysfunctional, extreme, polarized, and potentially violent. It is not democracy’s finest hour, to put it mildly.
In the U.S., Kevin McCarthy, desperate to be Speaker of the House, gave positions, voice, and unknown promises to some of the most extreme, election-denying, racist, downright nutty people imaginable.
From Christian Nationalist supporter, 9-11 questioner, election-denying Marjorie Taylor Greene, who thinks Jewish space lasers cause fires, to Holocaust-denier defender, election-denying, accused sex trafficker Matt Gaetz, to election-denying and former college wrestling coach accused of covering up sex abuse Jim Jordan, to election-denying, Holocaust-denier and white-supremacist Paul Gosar, to election-denying, gun-toting, and just plain old batty Lauren Boebert, to pretend Jew, fictional grandson of Holocaust survivors, pretend son of a 9/11 survivor, and pretend Baruch University volleyball star George Santos, McCarthy has got to be captive to the scariest, nuttiest bunch of characters to ever populate the U.S. Congress.
When in the course of McCarthy's humiliating, pandering quest for the votes needed to become Speaker, Gaetz nominated Jordan for the position, it had to be a first in Congressional history: An accused sex-trafficker nominating a former college coach accused of covering up sexual assault against athletes for one of the most powerful positions in the U.S. government, a position whose occupant would be President if something befell both the President and the Vice-President.
In a period of unbelievable lows in American politics, that nomination has to be a strong competitor for the lowest.
Israel appears no better off. Netanyahu is so desperate to be Prime Minister and to avoid going to prison for corruption, he has given positions to some of the most extreme and corrupt characters imaginable, has acceded to proposals that would severely jeopardize Israel’s democracy and long-term economic viability, and has carved up ministries and lines of authority with abandon, arguably jeopardizing the country’s security in the process.