Joe Biden is Israel's friend, but Trumpism is here to stay – opinion

We cannot admire the 74 million votes President-elect Joe Biden received without also being impressed with the staunch support President Donald Trump received from his supporters.

A SUPPORTER of US President Donald Trump holds a crucifix during a ‘Stop the Steal’ protest at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wedndesday. (photo credit: JIM URQUHART/REUTERS)
A SUPPORTER of US President Donald Trump holds a crucifix during a ‘Stop the Steal’ protest at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wedndesday.
(photo credit: JIM URQUHART/REUTERS)
"Donald Trump, you’re fired!” as the outgoing president would say. The American president was fired by more than 74 million voters. More people voted for Biden than for any US presidential candidate in history. It was also the largest number of voters to ever unseat an incumbent president.
If we look at Trump’s conduct in the days just before and after the recent election, we get the impression that to a large extent his behavior was the decisive factor leading to his dismissal. The allegations coming out of the White House that ballot-counting fraud and conspiracies are to blame for Trump’s defeat have provoked much ridicule and disgust in the US media.
In fact, the level of revulsion has reached such a high level that major media networks in the US have not hesitated to interrupt live broadcasts of the president and call him a liar, a crook and a fabricator. This childish, spoiled, narcissistic and cranky behavior is an extremely unusual phenomenon that has never been seen before in traditional American politics. It violates the fundamental values that characterize democratic life in America.
Although Trump, as an individual, will soon be leaving the White House, we must realize that Trumpism is here to stay.
We cannot admire the 74 million votes President-elect Joe Biden received without also being impressed with the staunch support Trump received from his supporters. The 70 million votes the outgoing president garnered are testament to the impressive power of the new Trump philosophy, which has permeated a large amount of the American public.
It’s hard to know if we should be more amazed by Biden’s victory or by the number of people who supported Trump. I don’t pretend to understand all the nuances and subtleties of America’s mood map. During the long night between Tuesday and Wednesday this past week, I listened to Israeli commentators who were suddenly transformed into self-confident experts, effortlessly using terms and adjectives that had become commonplace public discourse regarding the current political situation in the US.
I’m in awe of all the people who are capable of analyzing, understanding and dismantling voting patterns in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, for example; who are familiar with all of the ethnic, religious and social components involved; who can explain why people there voted a certain way and why people in other places voted differently; who can tell us what this means and how it fits into a comprehensive worldview.
In the end, after listening to Israeli and (mostly) American commentators – at least the ones on CNN whom I watched with admiration – a very disturbing picture has emerged. The United States of America, the strongest and wealthiest country in the world, is more polarized and divided than ever. More than 70 million Americans preferred a president who represents an attitude of belligerence, racism, contempt for women, hatred of African-Americans, antisemitism, primitiveness and cruelty to immigrants, and laxity and lack of determination when dealing with dictators who have the potential to threaten US stability in the international arena.
Trump, clearly, did not create the fanaticism, aggression and racism that can be seen in American public discourse, but they have become the hallmark of his presidency. Although these phenomena existed already, they became much more pronounced during Trump’s term, and have now permeated to many American communities from North to South, and especially in the Midwest, where most of the states are so red that you could practically go blind by looking at them.
The “Redneck-like” supporters of Trump in the US sound threatening, unpleasant and rude when they are interviewed on TV, or when they post messages on social networks. This is the first time, however, that they’ve had a spokesman in the White House. Even though their spokesman is being removed from the White House, these people who hate African Americans, immigrants and Jews are spread out over large parts of the United States and they’ve gained a considerable amount of power. The Republican Party which they support still has control of the Senate, according to the election results we’ve seen up until now.
IT’S POSSIBLE that the balance will shift once the results come in from uncalled elections in specific states. In any case, the Republican Party, in contrast with Trump, not only wasn’t defeated in this election, but has retained its power. It very well might have political tools it can use to create significant obstacles that Biden will have trouble overcoming in his effort to carry out reforms.
Is this nice 78-year-old man and his impressive Vice President-elect Kamala Harris really capable of tackling this huge challenge? Even Barack Obama, who was young, energetic, charismatic and razor-sharp, failed to prevent the racist and divisive discourse from spreading across the US. Hillary Clinton was too exposed and too vulnerable to curb the spread of Trumpism. Biden and Harris have become the flagships of the struggle to bring about change for America and reinstate the norms and values that seem to have gotten lost in recent years. Is the connection between them powerful enough to overcome the 70-million bloc of Trump supporters? It’s still too early to know.
At the same time, Biden will have to contend with the issues taking place in the international arena, including matters concerning the Middle East.
Many Israelis were saddened by Trump’s defeat, since they view him as a friendly president, especially toward Israel. I am not one of them. Trump showed his friendship with Israel mainly through his statements, though also by some of his actions. There’s no denying that his announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a significant symbolic step, and moving some of the US Embassy activities to Jerusalem was exhilarating. However, if you take into account Israel’s existential interests, Trump made only a marginal contribution that will not likely affect Israel’s strategic equilibrium in the Middle East.
Trump’s intervention led to normalization with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. This is a welcome step for which I have already praised him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, the US withdrawal from the entire Middle East has enabled Russia to enlarge its sphere of influence in the region, which has allowed Iran to slowly but threateningly move into areas closer to Israel, which has upset the strategic balance in the region. The F-35s the US plans to sell to the Emirates, along with the other weapons that have been promised to other countries that are willing to maintain relations with Israel, will not be enough to counteract the strategic changes that have occurred.
Obama once said you don’t need to be a Likudnik to be a friend of Israel. Biden is a confirmed friend of Israel, which he has proven over his 36 years in the US Senate. However, Biden’s friendship with Israel, and even his personal connection with Netanyahu, cannot disguise his support for the two-state solution, his opposition to settlements and his unequivocal refusal to recognize and support the unilateral annexation of territories, positions I share with him.
Israel does not currently appear at the top of the list of priorities for the new administration that will take over on January 20. When Biden takes office, though, he will be a friend of Israel and not of Israel’s right-wing bloc.
Netanyahu has succeeded in undermining Israel’s historical and traditional connection with both of America’s major political parties. He chose to align himself with the Republicans. Control of the White House is once again moving back into Democratic hands, which today many of them are less committed to Israel compared with the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Biden will be Israel’s biggest supporter during his presidency. His party, less so.
If here in Israel we undergo a similar process to what has taken place in the US and get rid of Netanyahu, I believe we will have a government that can agree with policies held by the Biden administration regarding the Middle East and perhaps also the Palestinians. The road that leads there, however, is neither short nor easy.
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.