US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to supporters as he arrives to a campaign event in Radford, Virginia.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For once, the unwieldy and chaotic display of democracy in Israel seems positively sedate and civilized compared to what’s taking place across the sea in the US.
We can only look on with amazement, shock and horror over the rise of Donald Trump on his seemingly assured path to the Republican nomination in this year’s presidential race, and wonder who’s been spiking Americans’ latte macchiatos.
Trump’s campaign has been based on divisiveness, fear and pitting citizens against each other, devices which are no strangers to Israeli voters But even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s desperate (and effective) election day warning of a large Arab turnout at the polls seems like an amateur stunt compared to Trump’s professional wrestling- worthy boasts, maneuverings and intimidations.
His cartoonish macho bravado aimed against illegal immigrants, American Muslims and American ‘weakness’ in the world, is a soothing balm to his mesmerized supporters – an empty promise of a return to a past that no longer exists.
Granted, the backlash against Trump has gone off the boards – the Hitler comparisons flooding social media are repugnant and cheapen the memories of all the victims of the Holocaust. But the ominous statements made by Trump, his threat on Wednesday of riots if he’s denied the nomination and the violent atmosphere surrounding his supporters label him a would-be tyrant who should alarm any freedom-loving person.
For some of those supporters – namely Jewish Republicans – the age-old mantra that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is going to be put to its full test over the next few months.
Though many of his views are an anathema, these Jewish voters inevitably reach the bottom line of Trump’s gutter philosophy – ‘If Trump doesn’t like Muslims, then I like Trump.’ And let’s face it, many right-wing American Jews – both in the US and Israel – readily buy into the bigotry that Trump espouses about Muslims. Will that bond be enough for them to join David Duke in coalescing behind the abrasive braggart, despite the increasing evidence that Trump’s herd mentality and his ‘us vs them’ credo will ignite a process that all minorities – including Jews – should be very fearful of? The indications unfortunately seem to be yes. In an interview Wednesday on Israel Radio, Republicans Abroad Israel representative Bob Lang gave an oft-heard answer to the question of whether he would vote for Trump if he wins the nomination.
“I will support the Republican candidate that the voters decide to nominate,” Lang said, echoing statements made earlier in the week in Israel by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
And, of course, Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson has not even waited for the nomination to throw his lot in with Trump, as evidenced by the over-the-top coverage touting his fellow billionaire in his pro-Netanyahu mouthpiece, Yisrael Hayom.
All of this, despite Trump’s ‘neutrality’ statements about Israel and his strategy of treating the Israeli –Palestinian conflict like another business deal to conclude.
The misplaced animosity that these Trump supporters have toward Hillary Clinton has “trumped” what should be their fear and suspicion of Trump. US Jews who go to the ballot box with their hearts in Jerusalem should instead look to their reasoning for guidance and realize that Israel will have a very bumpy ride with the erratic and impulsive Trump, far more rutted than the glacial relationship between Barack Obama and Netanyahu.
Israel will obviously work with whomever the American people ultimately choose.
And as can be seen from across-the-board US administrations over recent decades, from Reagan and the two Bush tenures to Bill Clinton and Obama, we know how to adapt and make the best of any situation.
No matter who is in the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office, the relationship between Israel and the US has endured, and it will survive even a Trump presidency. The question is, will the American people? The great, late scribe Hunter S. Thompson – who would have had a field day writing about Trump – unfortunately only had Richard Nixon to kick around. But if you plug in the name Trump, then Thompson’s comments over 40 years ago upon Nixon’s resignation startlingly foreshadow today’s woeful reality.
“It is [Trump] himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character… He speaks for the werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…”
The writer is the managing editor of The Jerusalem Post and the co-author of the book ‘Goodbye Parkinson’s, Hello Life.’