In about ten days, we’ll know who won one of the most fateful election campaigns in American – and possibly human – history. The differences between incumbent President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden could not be more pronounced. It is a choice between mysticism and science, between conspiracy theories and facts, between an admiration for dictators and respect for democracy, between a reality show and reality itself, between sexism and gender equality, between denying the climate crisis and recognizing the existential danger of global warming, between encouraging fossil fuels and promoting green energy, between privatized health for the rich and accessible health for all, between nationalistic isolation and international cooperation. Above all, it is a choice between life and death: between one who denies the pandemic while spreading it and a man who calls for masks, social distancing and hygiene.
Trump’s popularity in Israel is skyrocketing. Legend has it that there was never a more friendly president. He deprived the Palestinians while bestowing goodness on the Israelis: the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem, recognition of the legitimacy of settlements, agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and now Sudan, cancellation of the nuclear agreement with Iran, as well as numerous ceremonies and gestures designed to glorify our Prime Minister.
The worse Trump is for Americans, the better he is for Israelis. In Israel the question that matters is, “What is good for the Jews?”, because who cares about the Gentiles? In this way it is possible to have warm relations with dictators like General Sisi in Egypt, the Jordanian king and the Gulf princes, who share in persecuting political opponents, denying democracy, and discriminating against women and minorities. Israel judges Trump not by the disaster he caused for the Americans, but on how much he benefits Israelis.
Still, it is highly doubtful Trump would have the same popularity if he had run for the highest office in Israel. It is doubtful that Israelis would get along with someone who denies the pandemic, who is willing to sacrifice the lives of multitudes, encourage crowded gatherings, and bring on economic collapse. It is doubtful whether Israelis would be willing to support a candidate who uses Putin to skew election results, appoints his children to senior positions, and hands the Ministry of Justice to a man preoccupied with persecuting opponents. In short, Trump may be suitable in the USA, but not here.
In fact, Trump’s friendship with Israel is costly to Israelis. It is not enough that his deal of the century thwarted any solution with the Palestinians, but his total support for Netanyahu, who is facing criminal charges, coupled with his active intervention on behalf of Netanyahu in Israeli elections, led to three rounds of inconclusive elections. All this has deepened the rift in Israeli society, as expressed in weekly demonstrations outside Netanyahu’s house with the demand that he “go.” This rift is exacerbated by the huge social and economic cost caused by Netanyahu’s failure to address the COVID-19 crisis. The American bear hug, “regional peace,” and the rest of the goodies are intended to strengthen a person who should be disqualified from high office because of his obsessive preoccupation with his upcoming trial and his attempts to escape justice.
Whether they like it in Israel or not, Trump’s departure from the arena will be good for America. Biden’s hoped for victory reflects not only a change of government, but a change of mindset, a break from the path of the Democratic Party as it was from Clinton through Obama. That party looked to Wall Street, not Main Street. It supported capital at the expense of labor, paving the way for Trump’s populist victory. Paradoxically, a controversial reality television figure, a man who headed a failing real estate empire, a serial harasser of women, wound up representing the white, uneducated working class, which had been thrown into unemployment, opioid addiction and inferior food consumption.
It seems the vast majority of Americans have come to a realization that if the victory over Trump does not bring about a fundamental change in the priorities of the Democratic Party, the next election may produce a figure who advocates the same distorted Trumpian “principles”, but with more dangerous political skills.
Biden’s candidacy for the presidency is not accidental. Some see him as a gray-haired political figure, an elderly man lacking in charisma, a man who has worked in Washington’s “swamp” since his youth, and yet who has the best chance of becoming president. The reason Biden defeated Bernie Sanders, who was more popular in the primaries, is Jim Clyburn, an 80-year-old African American Democrat from South Carolina and the Majority Whip in Congress. Clyburn supported Biden in the primaries, thus paving the way for his nomination. Blacks in the United States are indeed Joe Biden’s electoral base, and black women are the leading force. It is no coincidence that Biden chose Kamala Harris, a California senator, as the first Afro-American/South Asian woman to hold the position of vice-presidential candidate in a major party.
Support for Biden is not limited to the Afro-American community, whose numbers are of course insufficient to win the election. He also has the support of the Democratic Party’s left wing, the backers of Bernie Sanders, including young cadres – whites, Latinos and blacks—who have adopted the Green New Deal, to which Kamala Harris is a signatory. Biden further enjoys the support of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has set herself the goal of dismantling the big monopolies of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. These elections are being held in the shadow of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has forced America to take stock of its treatment of blacks after 400 years.
Biden’s America stands in stark contrast to positions of the Israeli political establishment and its various parties. Biden’s America will not continue to support dictators like Putin or Mohammed bin Salman, who assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden’s America will not give a green light to human rights violations by Sisi’s regime in Egypt and will not accept Israel’s Occupation of the Palestinians as a legitimate policy. Biden’s America will adopt a new socioeconomic paradigm. It will take a critical stance toward neoliberalism, which has been a guiding light for all Israel’s parties, and will view it as responsible for the social disparities that led to Trump’s 2016 victory.
Biden’s election will also signal the end of the populism and separatist nationalism that have taken root in numerous countries. Figures like Viktor Orban in Hungary, Andrzej Duda in Poland and Boris Johnson in the UK soared to power on the wings of xenophobia. All of them are Netanyahu’s friends, and together they are Trump’s protégés. Biden’s election will herald the end of the Netanyahu era.
The Israeli tragedy is the absence of an alternative political movement to adopt a shared democratic program for Jews and Arabs, an egalitarian and green social policy and, most importantly, a policy that rejects the Occupation. The coronavirus pandemic is apparently leading to Trump’s defeat and could also be an opportunity for change in Israel. Our collapsing educational system, starving health system, lean welfare system, and social disparities are all symptoms of an economic order that is finished. If the new alternative does take hold in the United States a few days from now, it will show the way to the world. Whoever continues Netanyahu’s path even after his departure from political life, whoever continues to advocate for a neoliberal economy, separation between Jews and Arabs, and a continuation of the Occupation, will be ostracized and denounced by the world.