Impeach Trump, vote Bibi out - opinion

The dangers of allowing unprincipled leaders remain in office.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, in September. (photo credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, in September.
(photo credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)
With only slightly more than a week left in office, it might seem petty and vengeful to demand Donald Trump’s impeachment. After all, come January 20, the nightmare will be over. The 45th president of the United States will be history, left to tramp the golf courses of Florida without even his personal Twitter account to keep him occupied.
Impeaching Trump also carries the danger of continuing to stoke the fires this pyromaniac president set while in office. The hate-filled, conspiracy theory-fueled mob that rampaged through the US Capitol last week will certainly see any move to impeach as the further actions of a “deep state” determined to maintain the elite’s grasp on power. Opponents of impeachment are correct to warn of the potential divisiveness of the move.
And yet, unless Trump either resigns a la Richard Nixon, or Mike Pence and what remains of Trump’s cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution and strip the disgraced president of his powers, there simply is no other option. Trump’s actions last week, in which he exhorted a crowd of thousands to descend on the Capitol to protest his election defeat, was a deadly assault on American democracy.
Not that it came out of nowhere. Throughout his presidency, Trump rode roughshod over democratic norms and institutions, consistently and cynically playing to the baser instincts of his political base. Remember Trump’s failure to explicitly condemn the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups at the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville early on in his presidency? That is just one example of many.
Since November, Trump has ramped up his unpresidential behavior to an even greater unprecedented level. His refusal to accept his resounding electoral defeat to Joe Biden, and his shameless attempts to force Georgia’s top election official to “find” the votes that would overturn Georgia’s results, are the actions of a profoundly anti-democratic politician.
The events at the Capitol were the fatal culmination of Trump’s actions and warped leadership. There are some events that cannot be walked back, and the trashing of the seat of America’s democracy is one such happening. For the sake of the future, America’s politicians must use the remaining days of Trump’s ignominious presidency to draw the line on what passes for acceptable presidential behavior and ensure the damage of the Trump era can never be repeated.
HERE IN ISRAEL, as we enter the fourth set of elections in two years, we provide a distressing example of what happens when an unprincipled, narcissistic, populist leader who refuses to play by the accepted norms is allowed to remain in office.
Just as the country is an experimental playground for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout – Pfizer and Moderna’s rush to supply the country with millions of doses of their vaccines has nothing to do with our prime minister’s supposed negotiating skills and everything to do with the medical data Israel can supply in return – Israel is also showing other democracies what happens when a political leader places his own personal needs above those of the country.
Any honest leader would have immediately stepped down once indicted on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust, understanding the untenability of staying in office. Two previous prime ministers – Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Olmert – already set a precedent of resigning due to charges being brought against them, but Benjamin Netanyahu, like Trump, is cut from different cloth.
Regardless of the cost to the country of a stalled political system, Netanyahu intends to stay in power for as long it takes, solely in order to push through legislation granting him immunity from prosecution.
And the cost to the country is real. Take, for example, Netanyahu’s irresponsible refusal to tackle the constant flouting of lockdown regulations in the haredi, ultra-Orthodox, sector. The prime minister’s failed handling of the COVID pandemic has left in its wake more than 3,500 people dead, 800,000 unemployed, negative economic growth and 75,000 businesses bankrupt. However, as long as he continues to enjoy the political support of the haredi parties, then all is OK as far as Netanyahu is concerned.
Netanyahu shares Trump’s playbook of incitement and divisiveness. It is a modus operandi he has used throughout his long career with no care as to the damage it causes. The atmosphere he engendered in Israel ultimately led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Now he is hell-bent on undermining the legitimacy of the country’s judicial system.
The prime minister hasn’t, yet, incited the crowds to storm the Supreme Court, but who can forget that spine-shuddering photo of Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, flanked by his pack of sycophantic Likud ministers, on the day he was charged? A mafia boss couldn’t have staged a more threatening picture to the forces of law and order.
Until Netanyahu is defeated at the polls he will continue to submit the country to his machinations in order to avoid his legal fate. With no mechanism for impeachment in Israel, it is the responsibility of the electorate to send Netanyahu into political exile, alongside the unlamented Donald Trump.
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.