Netanyahu Vows to Annex on July 1. The White House May Ruin the Party

Back at the height of Donald Trump’s presidency, I asked an Israeli in Washington at the time which democracy he thought was in greater danger – Israel or the United States. "Look around you," he replied, pointing to the imposing public buildings of the American capital. “The system of the regime here is stronger than any one individual. He will pass and it will endure.”

In the summer of 2020 the answers look increasingly less clear and reassuring on both sides of the ocean. The violence being wielded by American police forces against demonstrators and journalists is worrisome and acting as a deterrent. Under cover of the coronavirus, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a close friend of his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, has taken measures to eradicate the remnants of democracy.

– LISTEN: High priests, holy smoke and cannabis in the Temple

LISTEN: High priests, holy smoke and cannabis in the TempleHaaretz

In Israel, the prime minister’s residence is orchestrating choruses of incitement, journalists are being tarred as enemies of the people, and an effort is underway to collect embarrassing information on public figures to influence their decisions. Democracy, in Washington as in Jerusalem, seems to be treading on thin ice that could easily crack under the extraordinary circumstances.

Netanyahu, Trump’s good buddy, has put all Israel’s eggs in America in one basket. And to use another metaphor, it looks like he’s raising the stakes. People who have spoken with close Netanyahu associates in recent years have heard erudite explanations on the solid alliance with the president and his supporters, the evangelical Christians.

Netanyahu clashed head-on with Barack Obama over the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and hasn’t hidden his solidarity with Trump ever since. Joe Biden’s warning against a unilateral annexation by Israel in the West Bank signaled what relations with the White House will look like if the Democrats win in November.

But even before that, the domestic threat to Trump, and his weakness abroad, could have implications for Israel. If more polls during the summer show Biden leading Trump, the president might opt for brinkmanship

U.S. elections aren’t decided by foreign policy, but Trump is capable of escalating the confrontation with Iran or giving a green light for annexation based on his own capricious considerations. This could stem from a lack of attentiveness, or from a scorched earth policy, with the aim of inflaming certain fronts in the hope that something good will result from recasting the media’s agenda.