The US should learn from Israel’s sense of nationhood, while Israel should follow the American example and free up its economy, Ben Shapiro, conservative commentator and editor emeritus of The Daily Wire, said on Wednesday.
Shapiro was the central attraction of the sold-out CPAC Israel event, also sponsored by the Tel Aviv International Salon and right-wing publisher Shibboleth. Several attendees at Tel Aviv’s Hangar 11 said they were there for Shapiro and not the many Trump administration officials who spoke before him, and the seats, which only filled up close to the time at which he was scheduled to speak, reflected as such.
Shapiro said before he took the stage that he hoped to convey a message about “what America can teach Israel and what Israel can teach America.”
The lessons Shapiro said Israel should take from the US are mostly in the economic sphere: “Lower taxes and regulation, stop letting the judiciary control all government, de-unionize the public sector. Israel has incredibly high intellectual capital and tremendous capacity in terms of skill.
If they unleashed their economy, it would be a global economic power and allow for true security for the State of Israel.
“The welfare state prevented Israel from being the economic power it otherwise would be.”
The US should learn from Israel that “you need a nation to be a nation-state,” Shapiro said. Americans used to widely believe in American exceptionalism, but has since divided itself into “tribes and races,” he said.
“There are groups of people that believe America is not exceptional, it is bad, not rooted in liberty and instead rooted in racism and evil,” Shapiro said. “America should learn from Israel that we need common sense of destiny, of what we are fighting on behalf of.”
“There are groups of people that believe America is not exceptional, it is bad, not rooted in liberty and instead rooted in racism and evil”Ben Shapiro
Part of the goal of bringing CPAC to Israel is to bring American-style conservatism into the country. But despite the efforts of organizations with more of a local operation, like the Tikvah Fund, the results have been mixed, and many of the issues and stances viewed as conservative in the US are not necessarily big vote-getters here.
Shapiro said that Israel’s relative success while maintaining a robust welfare state is the reason for that.
“All politics is oppositional,” he said. “It’s difficult to talk about economic progress and liberalization in the absence of massive failure of the welfare state. It took stagnation of the US economy for 10 years to get [former US president Ronald] Reagan elected.”
“When a country is on an upward trajectory, there tends to be less overt conflict over issues like economics,” he said.
Shapiro pointed out that “in the US, the conservative movement is orienting away from economic conservatism towards cultural conservatism.”
But the cultural issues that have conservatives up in arms in the US are not as big in Israel.
“The transing of children is not a big issue in Israel,” Shapiro said. “People here say this is nonsense. This is a much more traditional society in its views of proper moral behavior, well to its benefit.”
Shapiro also pointed out that social conservatism and fiscal conservatism do not necessarily overlap in Israel, in populations like the haredim who are among the most socially conservative but seek greater welfare benefits.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid “is a policy hawk” compared with the Israeli left of 20 years ago, despite being on the center-left, he added.
In recent years, much of the American and Israeli Right have each organized themselves around a single leader, but Shapiro pushed back against comparisons of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and former US president Donald Trump.
“Bibi is an extraordinarily adept politician,” Shapiro said. “He has a real worldview, a sense of Israel’s place among the nations and in Jewish history. He is a high IQ person by all accounts. The same descriptors don’t apply to Trump. He has good instincts, but doesn’t understand history and politics at nearly the same level.”
Shapiro said Likud’s singular admiration of Netanyahu is “the outgrowth of Netanyahu being very masterful, politically,” while “loyalty to Trump is driven by the widespread perception that people were attacking Trump because he was standing in front of the bullet that they were meant to take.
“Come 2024, Trump will have problems, because the ask he is making is, ‘I want you to take the hit for me, I’m angry about the 2020 election, let’s talk about it incessantly.’ People like me are not concerned about his grievances. We are more concerned about what [US President Joe] Biden is doing to the constitution.”
At the same time, if Trump is the Republican nominee, Shapiro said he is still likely to vote for Trump.
Asked about Biden’s visit to Israel last week, Shapiro said the president “fell on his face.”
“He arrived, shook hands, made some noises that sounded vaguely pro-Israel and then weird sounds started to emerge, like comparing the plight of the Palestinians to the Irish under British rule. It’s quite a feat to offend two key American allies and botch the history in the process,” Shapiro quipped. “Traveling to east Jerusalem and removing the Israel flag from the Beast [the presidential limousine] is him catering to his left-wing base, and he made a fool of himself in Saudi Arabia.
Traveling to east Jerusalem and removing the Israel flag from the Beast [the presidential limousine] is him catering to his left-wing base, and he made a fool of himself in Saudi Arabia"Ben Shapiro
“He is uniquely bad at this job, completely utterly unable to say the thing that won his nomination, which is that progressives need to take a seat.”
Israel and the Democratic Party
When it comes to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Shapiro said he is “not worried about ‘the Squad’ taking over tomorrow. I’m worried that in 10 years from now they’ll still be around, and Nancy Pelosi is in her 80s. There’s a reason she’s posing in magazines with members of Squad.”
“Each generation of the Democratic Party is more progressive than the last,” he added. “The AOC wing is not ascendant now, but it’s hard to say how it wouldn’t be 15 years from now... to the great detriment of the Democratic Party.”
Shapiro said he understands the need for Israel to continue to “court Democrats,” but they should not compromise on principles while doing it.
“Don’t freeze settlements interminably with hopes that Biden likes you,” he said. “It’s good to be cordial to Biden and honor him. He’s president of the United States, you should do those things. Netanyahu attempted to maintain cordiality with a president who hated his guts, [Barack] Obama.”