Every country has its own politics. Understanding a country’s politics isn’t easy. It takes immersion. And you can’t get that by just rereading news stories. Columnists have their own agendas. Explainers explain somebody’s point of view.
The hysterical reactions of the last two weeks over Netanyahu demonstrated that opponents and even most supporters of Israel don’t understand its politics. The latter is handily proven by Bret Stephens in the New York Times declaring that Netanyahu must go.
(That’s a decision for Israeli voters to make. And the average Moroccan immigrant in a development town has no idea who Stephens is or cares.)
The hysteria of the last two weeks was driven by two events, blown out of proportion by Americans, but that were nothingburgers in Israel.
First up, the hysteria over the alignment of Otzma Yehudit, a non-issue to anyone who understands how Israeli politics and its coalitions actually work.
Second, the indictment of Netanyahu, a baseless political stunt which everyone knew had been coming for months. If not years.
These events were blown out of proportion by Israel’s opponents. But many of its supporters, like Stephens, unfortunately proved that they had no real understanding of Israeli politics in their overreactions to both events.
And the hysterical reactions were followed up with shrill attacks on anyone who tried to explain it to them.
Take the unhinged attacks on Young Israel’s Farley Weiss for actually trying to explain to people who didn’t want to listen how Israel’s coalition politics works in real life.
Israeli politics doesn’t work like American politics. We’re not talking ethically, but procedurally. Both countries have their own ethical compromises “the way things work” that no one thinks twice about. But they’re different types of compromises, because their political systems are structurally different.
Israeli politics depends on building coalitions. Instead of local representation, it more closely represents ideological and ethnic factions.
I don’t think that’s a good thing. But it is the system. And Netanyahu is working with coalition partners who work with their own partners. The alternative is losing elections.
This isn’t so different from European parliamentary politics.
But a lot of American journalists are trying to map American politics onto Israeli politics. And some pro-Israel people also don’t seem to grasp that you can’t do that.
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