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A Capitol Hill Coup in Israel? Don’t Rule it Out

The daily deluge of coronavirus news was shunted aside Wednesday night by the unbelievable scenes in Washington.

What had initially looked like another cluster of nutjob conspirators outside the White House became, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s speech, a Bastille-type assault on the Capitol.

Insufficient, failed preparedness on the part of the security forces, despite the sensitive timing of the ratification of the results of the presidential election, enabled hundreds of rioters to burst into the building, stop the proper functioning of American government and threaten the safety of the elected officials.

The bizarre images (a demonstrator dressed as a buffalo, a neo-Nazi wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt) should not blur the gravity of the event. Four people were killed, among then a woman hit by gunfire inside the building.

Even worse, perhaps, this was a clear attempt, with direct encouragement from the outgoing president, to carry out a coup that would thwart the orderly transfer of power to the party of the candidate who won the election.

Trump sent the mob to Capitol Hill the moment it became clear to him that his vice president, Mike Pence, had finally cut loose from his grasp and did not intend to cooperate with the last maneuver to change the results.

The scene of the mob bursting into the building, with unbearable ease, is to a large extent an inevitable outcome of the era of Trump, a president whose conduct worsened over the course of his four years in office, and has reached an unprecedented low since he lost the election.

This is the significance of keeping a pyromaniac in the White House, an extremist and childish narcissist whose ego will never allow him to acknowledge his election defeat.

Trump has flirted with fascistic ideas and racist movements that believe in white supremacy all along his political trajectory. The Republican establishment, including most of the senators and members of the House of Representatives, abetted him in this, either because they did not dare to stand up to him or because they enjoyed the political benefits the president produced for them. The party leaders have for the most part been exposed as lacking conscience and perspective. The social networks, up until the belated sobering up at Twitter on the eve of the election, collaborated.

All this happened at a time when thousands of Americans are continuing to fall ill and die of the coronavirus, without their president having evinced the slightest interest in them. On Wednesday, at the time of the invasion of he Capitol, a new record was broken with the report of the previous day’s deaths: more than 4,000, in a single day. Trump, wallowing in his hurt feelings ever since the loss of the election, has not lifted a finger to accelerate the vaccination campaign or impose social distancing measures.

The violent scenes on Capitol Hill enabled leaders of other countries to cluck their tongues.

For some, the demonstration of American insanity provides belated justification for injustices they have committed against their own citizens and for the impurity of the elections in their own countries.

Others, and most certainly among them the leaders of China and Russia, are very pleased with the internal rift in the United States and are assuming it will accelerate the waning of the country’s status in the competition among the major powers.

During the night, statements of condemnation and shock started coming in from world capitals. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ideological ally of Trump’s in many respects, was quick to condemn the mob assault.

Netanyahu, another partner, tarried until the morning hours on Thursday, in the same way as he was late to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory in the election.

This is a direct continuation of Netanyahu’s cynical attitude towards Trump, the man he crowned at every opportunity as the American president most friendly and beneficent towards Israel, ever.

The belated exclamations of shock now being heard in parts of the Israeli right (while a handful of benighted devotees are still clinging to support for Trump), should not impress anyone more than the self-flagellation of Republican leaders. Netanyahu and his ministers knew exactly who they were dealing with.

Some ministers, in private conversations, have admitted he is a sociopath but they were glad to squeeze from that lemon everything they could. In return, they heaped upon the president tons of flattery. Ramat Trump in the Golan Heights is a fictive township whose sign will undoubtedly soon be removed (in any case, some of the letters have already fallen off), but the fact is that no other country ever made a comparable gesture to the president.

It remains to be seen if Biden and the new administration will want to exact from Netanyahu a price for the dangerous alliance he made with the most dangerous, irresponsible American president ever.

“It Can’t Happen Here” is the title of a well-known novel published by American author Sinclair Lewis in 1935. The dystopian plot is about an American dictator’s rise to power in the period that European countries were beginning to adopt fascism. Trump and his followers were apparently blocked overnight on Wednesday, and it is very possible that the events at the Capitol were the last dangerous but pathetic move of his time in office. However, Israelis who watched the events during the night, glued to CNN (the Israeli networks hardly bothered at all), apparently could not help but ask themselves whether similar scenes also await us here in the future.

After the events of this past year, it is hard say with any certainty that indeed it won’t happen here.

There was the police violence towards the demonstrators, first and foremost those near the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem; the impervious assault by police on ordinary citizens whose only sin was failure to wear a mask outdoors; previous Knesset Speaker (and current Health Minister) Yuli Edelstein’s refusal to accept the High Court of Justice’s ruling at the time of the political crisis in March, and of course the defendant’s horror show at the opening of his trial, surrounded by submissive, masked and affirmatively nodding ministers. Here too the genie is already out of the bottle. The more palpable the danger of his imprisonment becomes, the more Netanyahu is fanning the flames here in a way that is quite similar to the way his American friend did it.

About a year ago my colleague at Haaretz Josh Breiner published an article, a kind of satirical, futuristic scenario in which the Netanyahu family is required to leave the Balfour Street residence after a lost election but refuses to do so.

When I read that article I thought Breiner had gotten a bit carried away. Upon a rereading, it seems possible that his description was too restrained in view of what may await us.

Source: Amos Harel – HAARETZ