Perhaps it was the Trump signs waved at his election party. Perhaps it was the pursuit of conservative economic policies and aligning with the U.S. and Arab states against Iran in the name of regional security.
But whatever it was, the mainstream media was displeased Benjamin Netanyahu won a fifth term as prime minister this week.
His victory “attests to a starkly conservative vision of the Jewish state and its people about where they are and where they are headed,” wrote David Halfbinger of the New York Times in “It’s Netanyahu’s Israel Now.”
In this new “Netanyahu’s Israel,” the people “prize stability, as well as military and economic security that Mr. Netanyahu has delivered,” Halfbinger wrote. But “though in many ways they have never been safer, they remain afraid – especially of Iran and its influence over their neighbors, against which Mr. Netanyahu has relentlessly crusaded. They are persuaded by his portrayal of those who challenge him, whether Arab citizens or the left, as enemies of the state. They take his resemblance to authoritarian leaders around the world as evidence that he was ahead of the curve.
“They credit Mr. Netanyahu, whose strategic vision values power and fortitude about all, with piloting Israel to unprecedented diplomatic heights and believe still more is possible.”
With little to condemn him for – even the Times had to acknowledge the view of Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, who was quoted as saying, “Let’s be honest with ourselves. Our economy is excellent, our foreign relations were never better, and we’re secure. We’ve got a guy in politics for 40 years: We know him, the world knows him, even our enemies know him” – stories have focused on the “power” involved.
“Israeli democracy is rotting from the inside,” read the headline on the Vox story by Zach Beauchamp. “Tuesday’s election results exposed two major threats to Israeli democracy,” read the subhead.
Beauchamp gets right to it in the lead. Netanyahu has won a record fifth term. Beauchamp began. “The consequences of his victory for both Israelis and Palestinians could very well be catastrophic.”
The problem is Netanyahu has moved “in two, illiberal, anti-democratic directions.” He has “tried to buy off the independent media, further marginalized Israeli’s Arab minority and gone after civil society groups critical of his policies.”
And winning “could allow Netanyahu to continue his scorched-earth campaign to maintain power at all costs – up to and including doing serious harm to the foundations of Israeli democracy.”
Netanyahu has made it clear “he has no interest in a negotiated solution to the conflict with the Palestinians and seems content to indefinitely occupy Palestinian land without concern for the harm the occupation does to the Palestinians,” Beauchamp wrote.
The two “axes of authoritarianism – weakening Israel’s democratic institutions while perpetuating rule over the Palestinians without granting them political rights – are connected,” he wrote. The Palestinian issue “has destroyed Israel’s left and empowered a seemingly ever-more-radical right,” and “experts on Israeli politics” have become “concerned he might support a more concrete annexation plan as part of a Faustian bargain for the extreme right’s support in his quest for immunity from prosecution.”
Israel survived two invasions that threatened to wipe it off the map, but today, the threat to democracy there “is not external, bur rather of Israelis’ own making – a long-running illness that could soon turn acute.”
Beauchamp closed by pointing out this was Trump’s fault.
Trump “took a hardline pro-Netanyahu stance during every flare-up with the Palestinians and has done quite a bit to bolster Netanyahu politically,” Beauchamp wrote. Trump also moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – “both signs that Trump is fine with Israeli territorial maximalism.
“Netanyahu likely believes that with this president, he can get away with murdering the two-state solution.”
In fact, Beauchamp wrote, “some believe he already has.”