Two national leaders, two TV addresses to fire up their base

January 11, 2019 by Melanie Phillips - JNS.org
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Last Monday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on TV to make what was billed in advance as a “dramatic announcement.”…writes Melanie Phillips/JNS.

Melanie Phillips

Reacting to rumors that Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, might announce during Israel’s general election campaign an indictment against him on the three corruption cases under investigation, he declared that this would be unjust, and that he hadn’t been allowed to confront the three state’s witnesses in the investigations against him despite asking twice to do so.

“How can you get to the essence of the truth if I can’t confront the witnesses?” he asked. And so he was now renewing the “demand” to go face-to-face with his accusers, and “as far as I am concerned, it can be on live television.”

On Tuesday evening, U.S. President Donald Trump went on TV to explain to the nation his decision to shut down the federal government in protest at the refusal of the Democrats in Congress to fund the barrier at the Mexico border.

The barrier was vital, he said, to protect America from illegal immigration across that southern border. This was acting as a “vast pipeline” for illegal drugs, allowing criminals to enter the country and fueling a “humanitarian crisis” of thousands of children being used as “human pawns” to gain entry to the United States.

Both these TV appearances were cameo performances that served to highlight, in very different ways, the alarming trend now accelerating across the West: the breakdown of respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions, a breakdown being fueled by politicians as well as mobs being unleashed on the streets.

Netanyahu used this “dramatic” televised announcement to present himself as the victim of a politically motivated attack, in order to rouse his voter base in support of himself and against Mandelblit.

I have no idea, of course, whether there is any substance to the claims against him that Mandelblit is currently investigating. But Netanyahu has not yet been indicted; and under Israeli law, a suspect has no right at this stage to confront witnesses. Indeed, the imbalance of power involving a prime ministerial suspect could turn any confrontation into something approaching intimidation of such witnesses.

The Israeli police usually allow such a confrontation to occur when they think this will flush out a suspect’s lies or resolve contradictions in the evidence.

Moreover, an unnamed source close to Mandelblit’s investigation told Israeli TV news that having twice asked to confront his accusers, Netanyahu had said he would need to check with his lawyers first, though never actually pursued the request.

Such a stunt—in which a prime minister running for re-election attacks the independent law officer who is upholding the law by investigating claims of corruption against him—is the kind of thing more associated with a banana republic than a democracy.

In the United States, Trump is being accused of holding the entire federal administration hostage in order to get his way over the Mexico-border barrier. Yet the Democrats remain opposed.

Their opposition is not just intransigent but anti-democratic, for they are attempting to prevent the U.S. president from fulfilling his election pledge to build the border wall. They are therefore preventing him from fulfilling his undertaking to protect the people against crime and illegality.

A briefing paper by Paul Teller, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, says most asylum claims made by migrants arriving from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have proved to be worthless. That’s because widespread knowledge of loopholes in U.S. immigration procedures have enabled migrants who are being coached to fraudulently claim “credible fear” and be released into the United States.

On a typical day, he writes, the border police apprehend 21 wanted criminals at the southern border.

“Our porous southern border has allowed drugs to flood into our country and endanger the security and well-being of American communities. Mexico is the source of more than 90 percent of wholesale heroin seized by law enforcement in the United States, up from only 10 percent in 2003.”

Although most of those on the terrorist watch list try to enter the United States by air, he writes, there’s also a need also to stop those trying to enter by land. At the southern border last year, the Department of Homeland Security encountered more than 3,000 “special interest aliens”—individuals with suspicious travel patterns who may pose a national security risk.

Furthermore, he says, it’s wrong to argue that there is no illegal immigration crisis on the grounds that the rate of illegal borders crossings is lower today than in previous years.

In 2000, the vast majority of these attempting to enter illegally were Mexican single adults, and, as such, they were detained and repatriated to their home country within hours. Today, he writes, the influx contains many minors who can’t be dealt with in this way but are merely released into American communities.

Across the Atlantic, Britain is experiencing its own challenge to the democratic order. In the great fight over Brexit which is now in its final, most desperate stages, MPs who want to reverse the 2016 referendum vote to leave the E.U. are joining forces through a series of maneuvers, including voting to stop funding preparations for leaving without an agreed deal.

Since leaving with no-deal is the default position should Prime Minister Theresa May’s hugely unpopular E.U. Brexit deal be voted down next week, it is hard to exaggerate the irresponsibility and anti-democratic nature of this tactic. Leaving with no deal requires the maximum preparation to avoid disruption or chaos. And opposing “no-deal” is in effect to thwart the people’s expressed wish to leave the E.U.

Meanwhile, street thugs have been harassing and intimidating Remain MPs on their way into parliament.

In Israel, the grave of Mandelblit’s father was desecrated by unknown people who attacked no other grave in the cemetery.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron has lost control of the streets to the thuggery of the “yellow vests” protesters.

Some of us have been warning for years of the dangers of political alienation. Mass immigration, Islamization and the erosion of national identity, democratic sovereignty and the rule of law have produced a revolt against the entire political establishment in Britain, Europe and America. Now we’re further seeing a no-holds-barred attempt to squash that revolt, which will surely increase that alienation to dangerous levels.

In Israel, the dysfunctional nature of the Israeli political system, in which tiny parties can hold governments hostage, plus the intellectual collapse of the left and Netanyahu’s towering achievements through his superior strategic understanding have created the unhealthy situation where he is virtually unchallengeable. Hence his shocking stunt.

But since the Israeli public believes that there is no other national leader who could deal so effectively with the immense perils facing the country, they have been prepared to park any concerns they have about his character.

The same process is at work with Trump. Indeed, every time the Democrats scream about impeaching him, they fire up his base for him.

Similarly in Britain, the unprecedented attempt by MPs to reverse Brexit is causing such revulsion and outrage that even some of those who voted to remain in the E.U. now support coming out with no deal because they are so appalled by the attempted hijack of democracy.

The damage all this is doing to the Western compact between leaders and led is simply incalculable.

Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a column for JNS every two weeks. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has been published by Bombardier, which has also published her first novel, “The Legacy,” released in April. Her work can be found at her website, www.melaniephillips.com

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