Israel Providing A Preview

[ Posted Monday, March 27th, 2023 – 15:28 UTC ]

Although the American news media hasn't paid it a whole lot of attention, Israel now seems to be teetering on the brink of an existential crisis over what form of government it is going to have -- one geared towards democracy and checks and balances, or one headed in a much more authoritarian direction. While international news is routinely given short shrift in America (unless our own troops are somehow involved), what seems striking to me are the parallels between what Benjamin Netanyahu is currently attempting to do and what a second Donald Trump presidential term might look like here.

The political punditocracy here in America, as always, is much more interested in the horserace aspect of a presidential campaign than what the winner might actually do after the race is won. Which means there hasn't been a whole lot of ink spilled over what Trump might do were he to win a second term. Granted, it is still extremely early in the whole process -- the press might get around to contemplating this later, in other words -- but what is playing out in Israel right now seems to be very close to what we might expect from a second Trump term.

The nation of Israel is being led right now by a man who is facing serious legal peril, which might even include jail time. These cases are slowly working their way through their judicial system. The leader regained his position by forming alliances with the most extreme rightwing factions in his country, and in doing so has earned the disgust and hatred of pretty much everyone else on the political spectrum -- which includes some of his former political allies. He is frustrated that the levers of governmental power in his country dilute his own ability to run things, so he is attempting a bold move that would give him far more direct control over things and also allow him to essentially ignore the nation's top court if it ruled against him in any matter. This would (conveniently) also allow him to escape the charges now being brought against him personally.

That paragraph started with: "The nation of Israel..." but it's not that hard to imagine it becoming: "America..." in a second Trump term. Does anyone really doubt that Trump would attempt equally bold moves that would remove the ability of "The Swamp" or "The Deep State" (as he likes to call anyone in government not personally loyal to him) to stymie or counteract any impulse Trump might have? Donald Trump didn't learn a whole lot about the American system of government while he was president, but one thing he really learned well was what he hated most about it all -- which can be summed up as: "anything that stopped him from doing anything he wanted to do."

It would be a big priority for Trump, if he ever does regain power, to remove as many of these guardrails as possible -- whether through legislation or through executive orders or through simply ignoring any court decisions he didn't personally agree with. Yes, this would wind up in a constitutional crisis (or crises, more like), but Trump simply does not care about such things. He has proven this to be true already, numerous times.

We haven't seen such direct confrontation between the executive branch and the judicial branch since Andrew Jackson's time in office, but that doesn't guarantee it's never going to happen again. What would happen if the Supreme Court handed down some ruling or another that limited Trump's ability to do something -- and he just flat-out ignored it? The high court has no enforcement mechanism for any of its rulings, after all (a fact Jackson forcefully pointed out), therefore the president (as a "co-equal branch of government") could just decide he wasn't going to be bound by its ruling. This, quite obviously, could lead to chaos, but when has that ever been a consideration for Donald Trump?

We can also already see a precursor to what Trump would try to do about his own legal problems, in what the MAGA-fied Republican House is currently attempting to do. Trump, as president, would bring the entire weight of the federal government to bear on any legal proceeding he didn't approve of (which means "all the cases against him," first and foremost). Trump would not care about the niceties between state and federal law, as his minions have already proven. House committee chairs are already trying to obstruct justice in a state-level case even before an indictment of Trump appears. This effort is going to ramp up, one assumes, if an indictment does happen. Now just imagine Trump being in the White House as one of these legal cases plays out. Not only would the force of Congress be brought to bear, but also the F.B.I. and the rest of the Justice Department. Trump would use every means available to fight against and try to destroy any prosecutor anywhere who tried to hold him accountable for anything.

Benjamin Netanyahu is facing multiple corruption charges and he's trying to redesign the entire judiciary of his country to make his legal headaches disappear. Netanyahu does not care about massive protests against his power grab and he does not care what pain he is inflicting upon his nation by his actions. Foreign investment is already beginning to flee the country. The military is on the brink of open revolt against him -- so he fired his defense minister for having the temerity to tell him he ought to move a little slower. Netanyahu has used his security services to crack down harshly on the protests in the streets, but they just keep getting larger and larger. Government workers were beginning to refuse to show up to work and a general strike had been called for. None of this changed his mind or stopped him from ramming his power grab through his legislature. The only thing that did force him to pull back was when his own supporters began to weaken. He only holds a slim majority in his parliament, so any faction deserting him would mean he won't be able to pass the laws he is trying to.

This could easily be seen as a preview to what we could expect here. Donald Trump wouldn't care about anything other than Donald Trump. If massive protests formed on the streets of America, Trump would have no compunction about calling in federal forces to attack them. If Trump directed the military to move against them and the military refused, Trump would replace military leaders until he found one who would carry out his orders. In his first term, especially at the beginning, Trump was convinced to hire top aides who would occasionally tell him he couldn't do things. In a second term, the only thing Trump would require from any advisor would be total and complete loyalty to him in all things. Competence or experience wouldn't matter in the least -- as long as nobody ever said "No" to him again.

Democracies are fragile, and they are vulnerable to authoritarianism. Popular protest can check these impulses, but they can also fail to do so and spur intense crackdowns. Donald Trump made hatred and fear of certain groups the centerpiece of his political identity from the very start, and he would label any protest against him as enemies of the state faster than you can blink. So far, it appears that the uprising in Israel has at least halted the process of an authoritarian power grab for the moment, but the ultimate outcome is still in doubt. But I can't help thinking America should be paying a lot more attention to what is happening there, because it could all be a preview of what our country would probably face in a second Trump term.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


4 Comments on “Israel Providing A Preview”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    If Trump directed the military to move against them and the military refused, Trump would replace military leaders until he found one who would carry out his orders.

    It doesn’t work that way: when I was in the Army we took an oath to defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign AND domestic.

    Our military would put a bullet in Trump’s brain before they’d break that oath. It’s why I’m not bothered by any notion of “American Civil War 2.0” and I’d just love to see someone try — nuke up the popcorn and watch a bunch of idiots get all shot up!

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Donald doesn't want real loyalty, he requires subservience. People who were extremely loyal occasionally told him the truth with the goal of helping him navigate a sticky situation.

    Bibi is a bit brighter, and after a few moments of rage occasionally takes such advice.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    this is an extremely interesting article you've written, and on a topic that i care about greatly. i wonder if perhaps you'd be willing to expand upon your analysis of israel's political situation, and provide some of the sources you're using to inform your viewpoint.

    Because Israel uses a parliamentary system, there's a lot more wheeling and dealing available to an ousted would-be autocrat, and much sooner. Can you imagine what trump could have done already if he didn't have to wait until 2024 for another bite at the presidency? Another issue Israel has that we don't is an oppressed class of resident, only some of whom are citizens, but who are also aligned with the country's mortal enemies, and who have on multiple occasions tried to end the existence of the state entirely.

    for something resembling an equivalent, imagine that all the black, latino and asian residents of the US, documented and undocumented, were universally aligned with a movement in England to take back the "colonies"

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    for the sake of the parallel i should say, in england, canada, mexico, the caribbean and the pacific islands. that's about how surrounded israel is with regimes who (although they've finally realized military action doesn't net them much) still want very strongly to replace it with a caliphate. all of which feeds the narratives of the xenophobes and exploiters, and results in horrible conditions for palestinians, be they israeli citizens or residents of the political football territories.

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