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America and Israel are more alike than they know

Benjamin Netanyahu with Joe Biden in 2010. Debbi Hill/Pool/Getty

Any Americans watching the ongoing turmoil in Israel may want to reflect on just how similar the two countries are, says Simon Kuper in the FT. Both were founded by a “persecuted minority fleeing Europe”, and began as “ethnostates which privileged the dominant ethnicity”: white men in the US; Jews in Israel. Both have always had a sense – “real in Israel, but usually manufactured in the US” – of living under external threats. They identify more with each other than with “western European softies”. And, crucially, they both “hit identity crises when the ethnic majority realised it risked becoming a minority”. America is expected to become “minority white” by 2045; Jews have effectively become a minority in Israeli-controlled land now that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has abandoned any notion of a Palestinian state.

It is often said that Israel “can be a Jewish state or a democracy, but it can’t be both”. You could say the same about the US: it “can be a white-ruled ethnostate or a democracy, but not both”. And just as Israeli hardliners are trying to preserve their own dominance – passing a law in 2018 that enshrined the country as “the national home of the Jewish people” – red states in America have been disenfranchising minorities with prejudicial voting laws. Politically, the two countries are on a knife-edge. Netanyahu, like Donald Trump, has been indicted on multiple charges. And both men openly want more power: Netanyahu by defanging Israel’s Supreme Court; Trump by creating an “almighty American executive”. Despite their flaws, there was always “something potentially beautiful” about the American and Israeli experiments. “I hope they aren’t ending.”