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.”