Democracy is a noisy business.
Neither Israelis nor Americans need to be reminded. The commotions surrounding Donald Trump and Benyamin Netanyahu have a history, one longer than the other reflecting Bibi's span at the top of government, and the noise focused on both seems to be ascending.
Will they end with dismissals from elected office?
It's too early to guess. We have nothing more than reports and commentary from media, in both cases feeding off the aspirations and stories of those opposed and those supporting the man at the top.
Moreover, getting rid of a key official is appropriately a matter for careful deliberation. Not only does the subject enjoy the conventional right of "innocent until proven guilty," but a verdict that is too quick, and especially one soon after an election, risks a dangerous challenge to the legitimacy of normal politics.
Both cases are multi-faceted. Neither head of government is accused of one misdeed, but of several. And both are tainted by alleged actions of key aides and family members.
Seeking to get rid of the person on the top is not the only source of political noise. It's likely that every item on a government is controversial.
The loudest noise may focus on items identified with the President or Prime Minister. American disputes deal with Trump's pull out of an environmental treaty, his effort to limit the entry of people from certain Muslim countries as well as the different issue of limiting illegal immigrants and dealing quickly and quietly with those found in the US, and the role of Russia in his election and his businesses. There's also his backtracking on relations with Cuba, and no end of personal tweets that appear to critics and supporters as somewhere between bizarre and self-destructive.
The case against Netanyahu is also both personal and policy-connected. The Israeli and international left sees him as responsible for an extreme government that has promoted settlement and foiled any effort to make peace. The Israeli right and overseas friends see him as stifling construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the sake of appealing to what is cynically described as "the international community," as well as timidity in dealing with aggression from Gaza.
Israel's brouhaha about a code of ethics for universities and academic freedom is part of the left vs right commotion.
There's also constant pressure, noise and more violent kinds, from Palestinians and other Arabs, and from various kinds of Jews. Activists among secular Jews have demands across the spectrum of ideologies. Ultra-Orthodox rabbis insist on a maximum of benefits while their congregations avoid the obligations of other citizens. Orthodox settlers demand more housing as well as greater Israeli control over the Land of Israel.
What to do about the noise?
Perhaps sit back and enjoy it as signs of a vibrant democracies that tolerate dispute.
In the case of Donald Trump, it's hard to recall a President that came in for as intense opposition, especially early in his term. Or even before his inauguration, when activists were already assembling material for the prospect of impeachment.
Richard Nixon was also seen as problematic, but he served eight years as Vice President and won two presidential elections before making the mistakes that were capable of ending his career. Or suspending his career, insofar as he came back, at least partly, with recognition as an elder statesperson.
Donald's major weakness appears to be personal. Not, perhaps, (or not only) actual guilt of a significant offense, but a lack of political and governmental experience that makes him among his own worse enemies.
Trump supporters note that he had the political acumen to attract votes from what had been the heart of the Democratic Party, i.e., working class Whites. However, a survey of corporate CEO's indicates that he has lost the support of a key Republican constituency.
"A stunning 50% of the CEOs, business execs, government officials and academics surveyed at the annual Yale CEO Summit give Trump an "F" for his first 130 days in office . . .another 21% give Trump's performance a "D" . . . Just 1% of the 125 leaders polled awarded the billionaire an "A." . . .The overarching message from CEOs is: 'Stop the random 3 a.m. tweets and stop the needless brushfires diverting from the agenda' . . .This was not a granola-eating crowd of Democrat entrepreneurs. It's a cross-section of the business community, including some who are quite pro-Trump"American commentators have claimed for some time that political nastiness is reaching new heights. Non-partisan or bi-partisan is said to be passe. Maybe. But noise in chronic in democracies. Us oldtimers should remember the nastiness against the New Deal that lasted through the 1940s, and the extremism associated with Joe McCarthy. Then further back was the Civil War, and the political nastiness that occurred before over slavery and afterwards about Reconstruction.
Remember Alfred E. Neuman, and stop worrying.Irashark@gmail.com
Recent indications that substantial numbers of nominal Democrats voted against Hillary, and that people who should be loyal Republicans are shunning Donald suggest at least the potential of something other than partisan warfare.
Noise in the public arena shouldn't disturb those who are commoners, activists, or officials. It's part of life in open societies. It's wise to avoid excessive emotion, or involvement, given the intellectual problems in getting to the bottom of cases too complex for simple solutions. This is true of all the hotly debated policy issues, and may even apply to the cases being developed against and in behalf of Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu.
The media is responsible for much, perhaps most of the noise, but the media is also part of what allows us to look at a commotion with distance and calm.
Someone else will make decisions about personnel and policy. Decisions needn't be perfect. Perhaps they cannot be perfect, and rest without dispute. However, they'll move things from their high place on the agendas of government and the public, and make room for others, sure to be waiting in line.
Join the noise. Comments welcome
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem