Capitol riots: Trump's challenge to democracy

Can the torn and frayed fabric of American society be restored?

A protester holds a sign saying "Tump wins" at a rally in support of US President Donald Trump at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon, US January 6, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/TERRAY SYLVESTER)
A protester holds a sign saying "Tump wins" at a rally in support of US President Donald Trump at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon, US January 6, 2021.
We don’t often comment or state opinions on the internal affairs of another country. But the US is not just another country, and the events that took place there this week are not everyday occurrences.
What transpired in Washington on Wednesday shocked the world. It was impossible to take your eyes off the images: hordes of camouflaged, flag-waving demonstrators storming the US Capitol and forcing the evacuation of the House of Representatives and the Senate, where legislators had gathered to certify US President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November 3 election.
It was especially shocking here in Israel, where we have long looked to the US as a beacon of democracy, and an example of the path to follow in safeguarding the liberties and principles of living in a free society. To see the foundations of that democracy assaulted from within was painful to watch, and frankly, it hit a little too close to home.
The last four years of this administration have threatened the very essence of the rule of law in America, with US President Donald Trump’s repeated attempts to delegitimize long-standing norms and institutions and divide Americans through hatred and mistrust.
It is similar to the tactics employed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his ongoing efforts to squash his court case for bribery, and those watching the unbelievable scenes from Washington and thinking it could never happen in Jerusalem are naïve.
Just as Trump over the last four years convinced a segment of the population that they have been duped, the system is against him and them, and they need to do something about it, Netanyahu also has his solid supporters who are convinced that the allegations against him are trumped up and aimed at removing him from power, something that election after election have failed to achieve.
Could they, spurred on by demagoguery, storm the Knesset in a rage to express their frustration, as the misguided masses did in Washington? Possibly. Though we may not be at that stage of vitriol yet, the US insurrection – described by many as an attempted coup – should serve as a sober warning that once democratic cornerstones are questioned by those in power, anything is possible.
Thankfully, order and calm were restored to the hallowed establishments in Washington, despite Trump’s lame video released on Twitter calling for the protesters to leave, while at the same time continuing to flaunt falsehoods and baseless claims about a “stolen election.”
The rabble didn’t succeed, and the overlying achievement of the last 48 hours is that despite their efforts, on January 20 at the very site of Wednesday’s horrifying scenes, Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the US.
Trump, in typical fashion, backed into acknowledging that fact with another waffling statement: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20.”
The question is, what now? Can the torn and frayed fabric of American society, with principles described by Biden on Wednesday as “honor, decency, respect, tolerance,” be repaired and restored?
Knowing the resilience and determination of the American people, it’s likely. And certainly necessary. The US needs to heal, and return as the leader of the free world, because there are so many vitally important issues at stake that require strong, decisive action and reasoned thought.
 Israel, too, needs a robust America at its side as its chief ally, as it faces a myriad of threats from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. We seek the guidance, wisdom and advice that we’ve relied on for decades as the fruits of the special relationship between the two countries.
We believe it is possible for the US to recover from this unprecedented challenge to its democratic values. But for that healing to begin and for America’s place in the world to be restored, the most important move right now is for Donald Trump to leave the picture – quietly and forever.