Birds of a Feather Trump and Netanyahu Are Poles Apart on Coronavirus Crisis

Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump have forged what is possibly the closest-ever ideological relationship between a U.S. president and an Israeli prime minister. 

Both are business-oriented, free market capitalists, ultra-nationalist and often xenophobic populists. They share a disdain for minorities, contempt for Europeans, hostility to Muslims, admiration for authoritarians, love for themselves and hyper-inflated sense of their own irreplaceable role in history.

– Corona keeps Bibi in power and unmasks the Mossad

Corona keeps Bibi in power and unmasks the MossadHaaretz

Trump’s pro-Israel policies are the most lop-sided in the history of the ties between the two countries; Israel, in return, is consistently ranked as one of the most pro-Trump countries in the world. The recent coalition agreement between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz showcases Trump’s august position: He will be the final arbiter of just how much territory Israel will be able to annex in the West Bank, as if it had no defense or foreign policy of its own.

And yet, since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in January this year, the duo hitherto known as Siamese Twins, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and collectively, in these columns, as Trumpyahu, couldn’t be any more different. Their actions and reactions to the pandemic have been polar opposites. Among world leaders, Netanyahu has been among the most cautious; Trump, on the other hand, is one of the most reckless.

When Trump was pooh-poohing the disease as an insignificant nuisance that will soon pass, Netanyahu envisaged a plague of medieval, Black Plague proportions. While Trump was dissing social distancing, Netanyahu ordered the strictest lockdown on the planet. When Trump was dismissing and contradicting the warnings of his professional advisers, Netanyahu was obeying their every word, and then some.

While Trump predicted an end to precautionary measures within weeks and is now actively agitating against his more prudent state governors, Netanyahu laid the ground for an endless lockdown and dismissed increasing criticism of his overcautious regime. Nothing could be more emblematic of Netanyahu’s zeal than his decision on Wednesday to bar bereaved families from visiting the graves of fallen soldiers during next week’s Remembrance Day. For Netanyahu, coronavirus trumps even the holiest of holies.

The divergent paths taken by Trump and Netanyahu in the face of an unprecedented global and national crisis are partly a reflection of the vast differences between the two countries that they rule. Israel is compact, close-knit, centralistic, accustomed to national mobilization and has a low tolerance for loss of lives.