Bibi’s Trying to Pull a Donald, and the GOP Is There for Him
He's calling his apparent loss “the fraud of the century” as his religious allies insist he’s still God’s anointed one and his enemies are getting death threats. Sound familiar?
It appears that Benjamin Netanyahu is finally on his way out as Israel’s prime minister. With just minutes to spare ahead of a midnight deadline on Wednesday, opposition leader Yair Lapid notified Israel’s president that he had formed a new government.
But if Netanyahu's 12-year run is indeed at an end, expect key segments of the GOP to treat Bibi as though he had not lost power, much as they continue to venerate Donald Trump and look at Joe Biden’s victory as illegitimate.
Israel has emerged as another domestic wedge issue – along with mask mandates, abortion, and defunding the police. In the words of Tom Friedman, “Biden may be the last pro-Israel Democratic president.” Against this backdrop, Netanyahu will likely continue to receive Republican hosannas even if he is out of a job.
Heck, odds are that Republicans will treat him like the real prime minister. Taking a page from the Trump playbook, Netanyahu had accused his rivals of committing “the fraud of the century” even before they formed a coalition to oust him.
If doing that annoys President Biden, so what? The GOP base will love it and Republicans on the Hill will be nicer to Israel’s actual prime minister than any Democrat sitting in the Oval Office. And if that infuriates Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and the rest of the Squad, so much the better.
The left-wing of the Democratic Party is out of sync with popular sentiment on this one, for now anyway. The stuff that can make the hearts of junior faculty members, self-described democratic socialists, and Elizabeth Warren flutter often finds a decidedly different reception with the general public.
The signs are already there. Amid the waning moments of Netanyahu’s apparent tenure, senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Tennessee’s Bill Hagerty were in Israel to lend Netanyahu a hand and garner praise from the ex-prime minister to-be. Also floating around the Holy Land was Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, who harbors dreams of capturing the 2024 Republican presidential nod.
Netanyahu gushed over Cruz and Hagerty, saying “I see two great friends of Israel... we have no better friends.” In contrast, he warned the Biden administration of Israel’s willingness to go it alone on Iran if needed. For his part, Cruz went that extra mile and blamed Biden for Hezbollah’s rocket attacks and 11 days of fighting, or one Scaramucci.
The earlier announcement by Netanyahu’s rivals Lapid and Naftali Bennett that they were prepared to form a government was met with derision, disbelief, and menace by Bibi’s staunchest supporters much the same way as Trump howled that the November 2020 election was stolen, with Sidney Powell, his one-time lawyer, proclaiming that Trump will somehow be returned to the White House this summer, presumably riding atop a Kraken.
Bennett and his political partner Ayelet Shaked are already receiving heightened protection as the result of credible threats. One Israeli commentator even surmised that his country might even experience its own insurrection.
The Knesset’s anticipated vote of confidence on the new government may be a baptism of fire, literally and figuratively. Adding fuel to the pyre, a group of Israeli rabbis declared that those who side with the new government will have “actually” stated that they “have no part and parcel with the God of Israel.” On that score, these Jewish divines echo sentiments previously expressed by their evangelical counterparts.
Back in 2018, Rev. Franklin Graham, the late Billy Graham’s son, threatened Americans with God’s wrath if they had the temerity to criticize the 45th president. The broader U.S. electorate was unimpressed.
Netanyahu, the Republicans, and America’s evangelicals have longstanding ties. In early 1998, as the Clinton administration was pressing Israel on the Palestinian front, Netanyahu appeared with the late Jerry Falwell at a screening of the Falwell-abetted “Clinton Chronicles,” which posited that the president was a druggie who had a hand in the death of Vincent Foster, the White House lawyer who took his own life.
In case anyone needed reminding, reality remains expendable. Two-thirds of Republicans reject the notion that Trump lost fair and square, and a majority of congressional Republicans voted against certifying the results. As for the January 6 insurrection, blame it on antifa and the Democrats. Those gallows meant for Mike Pence were just a figment of our collective imagination.
Practically speaking, Netanyahu’s departure from the prime minister’s office will likely lower the temperature between D.C. and Jerusalem. As a de facto GOP surrogate, Netanyahu led Israel to be viewed in some quarters as a Trumpian outpost on the Mediterranean. On Tuesday, 17 Democratic senators pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Gaza reconstruction.
Suffice to say, the interests of the Republican Party and the Israeli government are not always one and the same as Israel is now being reminded. For the moment, however, the status quo prevails on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Expect Israel’s Iron Dome stock to be replenished, with the bipartisan support of the president and the congressional leadership, a tailor-made photo-op for all concerned.