Netanyahu as an Israeli Donald Trump

Israel has a truly virulent Left, every bit as virulent as the American Left.  Because Israel cannot afford much irrationality, however, they are less influential than the American Left.  And a key to keeping them from influence is the moderate conservative Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has been elected Prime Minister of Israel four times. He is the only prime minister in Israel's history to have been elected three times in a row. He is therefore greatly hated by the Left and they never tire of finding some way of bringing him down.  As with Trump they have no respect for the outcome of democratic processes.

Recently, however, they have been much heartened by the emergence of a claim that Netanyahu has been involved in some sort of illegal financial activity.  And an active investigation of that claim by the Israeli police is now underway.  The Israeli Left have great hopes of that claim.  They look to the eventual dismissal of Netanyahu out of it but realize that will be a long game.  What they hope right now is that the claim will at least dent Netanyahu's political support.  They hope that the public opinion polls will show that Netanyahu is now a lame duck whom his own party might eventually disown. As with all the accusations flung at Trump, they think something has got to stick.

With Trump, however, the opposite has happened. His poll numbers were for a while way down but they have recently crept up -- with Rasmussen now having him on a 50% approval rating. The "dirt" flung at him has just bounced off.  It was the same with Ronald Reagan.  No "dirt" would ever stick to him, either.  He became known as the "Teflon President" for that reason.

And Netanyahu also seems to have Teflon qualities. The accusations against him have not dented his popularity at all.  His popularity has, if anything, increased.

Which is a BIG puzzle for the Israeli Left.  How can that happen? Can the people of Israel tolerate an accused criminal as their Prime Minister?  It makes no sense.  It is as puzzling to them as was the defeat of Hillary Clinton to the American Left.

And the explanation they have come up with is similar.  They think the people are irrational and emotion-driven -- not rational and balanced people like themselves.   Netanyahu is their father figure and so on.  That people who are as full of hate as the Left are regard themselves as rational and  unemotional is as amusing in Israel as it is in America.   Sigmund Freud's observations about the power of projection (Seeing one's own faults in others) spring immediately to mind. And, as in the USA, the Leftist narrative dominates the Israeli media.

So we come to the article below, which puts forward the shocking idea that the supporters of Netanyahu might be perfectly rational.  As Trumpians do, they may like his poicies enough not to be bothered by minor issues.  The inherent arrogance of the Left will however never allow them to see that. They will continue to rant away inside their own little hermetically sealed intellectual bubble

Why the Right Is Actually Rational

Those who shout 'Only Bibi!' aren’t necessarily acting on gut instinct. On the contrary, they’re voicing rational recognition of the fact that the war against corruption won’t necessarily alter their situation.

תEver since the police issued their summary report of two investigations concerning Benjamin Netanyahu, many people have been trying to solve one of the great riddles of Israeli politics: How is it that the poll numbers of the prime minister and his Likud party not only did not decline but even rose?

It can’t be claimed that only one side of the political map cares about corruption. In 1977, claims of massive corruption at the highest levels contributed to voters’ disgust with the Labor Alignment that led to its ouster. And in 1992, anti-corruption demonstrations helped Yitzhak Rabin to beat Yitzhak Shamir. So what has changed?

A number of Haaretz writers have weighed in. Yossi Klein cited Likud voters’ need for “revenge” against the elites (Feb. 22). Daniel Blatman proposed “fear” as an explanation for the lack of desire to separate from Netanyahu (Feb. 22, in Hebrew). Ravit Hecht cited the “familial” nature of Likud voters (Feb. 23). Alon Idan compared support for Likud to fans’ loyalty to a soccer team (Feb. 23, in Hebrew). Iris Leal claimed that Netanyahu “hypnotizes” his audience (Feb. 25, in Hebrew).

The weakness of all these explanations lies in their common denominator. The key terms in these op-eds show that to his critics, support for Netanyahu is emotional. None of them sought to understand its rationale.

This problem is most apparent in attempts to explain why the left has failed to convince the right: Persuasion is impossible from a position of fundamental arrogance, which assumes that “they” are not rational but “we” are. Yet a deeper look reveals, even if unintentionally, a real difficulty in understanding the other.

This isn’t new. The late sociologist Yonathan Shapiro, who conducted one of the first studies on Likud’s rise to power, named several reasons for its upset victory in his book “The Road to Power: Herut Party in Israel.” One of the main ones, he said, was Likud leader Menachem Begin’s emotional manipulation of Mizrahi Jews.

This claim was widely accepted as axiomatic for several decades, and still echoes through academic and public debates. The problem is that manipulation doesn’t work only on people of certain ethnic origins, and in any case, all politicians tend to manipulate.

In fact, new studies about the economic policies of the ruling Mapai party, a Labor Party forerunner, during the country’s formative years show that until the 1960s, and contrary to its image as a party that exploited the Mizrahim, Mapai pursued a clear policy of reducing wage gaps between the elites and the lower classes. This data help us understand why Mizrahim abandoned Mapai at about that time and started voting for Begin, because it explains the economic and class context and recognizes that this was a rational decision.

Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn wrote that Netanyahu’s accomplishments — Israel’s prosperity, its political stability and the decline in Palestinian terror within Israel proper — are what win him public support (Feb. 26). But Benn didn’t draw the necessary conclusion, which is that if Netanyahu’s achievements are what keep him in power, then the right is rational, and the left is emotional in its utter opposition to his policies.

Clearly, the left-right story is more complicated than questions of emotionalism, and even those who recognize Netanyahu’s practical achievements can’t ignore his moral failings. Nevertheless, the people who shout “Only Bibi!” even when he is caught out in disgrace aren’t necessarily acting on gut instinct. On the contrary, they’re voicing rational recognition of the fact that for all the importance of the war against corruption in high places, it doesn’t affect their lives and won’t necessarily alter their situation.


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