Netanyahu’s disdain for President Obama over the past years has been palpable (and mutual). His disbelief and pure joy when Trump unexpectedly won the White House must have put him in heaven. Cleary, Netanyahu relishes the gift from heaven he’s been given with the inauguration of Donald Trump. And, like any strategic politician, Netanyahu aims to curry favor with the Donald by supporting him at every turn.
When the Donald announced the wall to be built with Mexico, he was widely criticized for the inhumanity of his actions. Not only did it have the appearance of being racially motivated, it also doesn’t make any sense. For all of us Americans who go out to dinner, we know some of the kitchen staff may be illegal –and working for cash, having come here from Mexico, or Guatemala, or Honduras. When we buy our avocados at the market, or our strawberries, or our apples – we enjoy paying a ridiculously small amount for a bucket of fruits or vegetables. In other words, we know that we, as US Citizens, enjoy good deals, thanks in part to the back -breaking work of these workers. In fact, our grocery bill could nearly double if we didn’t have Mexicans and others from Central America, many of whom are undocumented, working the fields – and native born Americans certainly don’t want to do that work.
So, when we talk about the wall, most of us know that we aren’t overly serious about it. We need those people, to come in, many undocumented, to work and get us our cheap food, to wash our cars, to paint our houses. I’m not so sure that Netanyahu understands this dynamic of the American experience. Yes, I know he went to MIT, and obviously he is a very smart man – and he’s right more times than not. To come down on the side of separating out the US from Mexico with a hard line, a tall, impenetrable wall, however – lacks an understanding of the complex relationship interwoven between the US and our friends south of the border.
I’m not aware of any other world leaders who came to the Donald’s defense when he announced his intent to build the wall. Netanyahu, while understandably trying to curry favor with the Donald, leapt to his defense, and said that Israel had built a similar wall, and it worked out great. Of course, for Israel, the dynamic is very different- and I don’t think Netanyahu’s endorsement of Trump's idea pays deference to that fact.
There is another, deeper reason why Netanyahu shouldn’t have endorsed the wall, and shouldn’t blindly endorse other bad ideas Trump puts out going forward. It’s because, for sure, Trump is becoming a joke in the world community. A laughing stock. Someone to be avoided, not feared. And, yes, a pariah. Israel has had its own experiences with being viewed as a pariah state, and Netanyahu aligning himself with Trump, while it may make short term sense, is harmful in the mid and long term. Because, let’s face it: the Donald’s not going to last.
It is almost inconceivable to me that Trump will finish the full term of his election. The Republicans will undoubtedly have had enough of the Donald at some point over the next year or two, and one of his shenanigans like the Muslim ban, the wall with Mexico, the ‘end’ of Obamacare (while promising no one loses coverage – really?), will give them the jolt they need to impeach him. Pence promises to be a much more stable figure in the traditional sense, and a person even liberal Americans would be more comfortable owning the nuclear launch codes and interacting with other world leaders than the Donald.
Netanyahu should temper his applause of Trump to only when absolutely necessary, and then only with the requisite amount – no more. While I’m admittedly excited to see what Trump and his son in law will do for Israel over the coming year, I also have an eye out for what happens after that time – and the less entangled Netanyahu gets with Trump, the better for Israel.