For twenty years, many people in Israel and in the West have expressed the hope that Benjamin Netanyahu would prove to be the Richard Nixon of the State of Israel. Not the paranoid Nixon of the Watergate scandals or the embittered Nixon raving drunkenly at the White House portraits at four in the morning but the Nixon who yearned to enter the pantheon of statesmen, and who defied his Red-baiting past and initiated diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China….
It is amazing to recall how long this fantasy persisted. Even President Obama, whose relationship with Netanyahu is now poisoned by mistrust, once suspended disbelief….
In last week’s Israeli elections, Netanyahu did play the role of Nixon—except that he did not go to China. Nor did he go to Ramallah. He went racist. In 1968, Nixon spoke the coded language of states’ rights and law-and-order politics in order to heighten the fears of white voters in the South, who felt diminished and disempowered by the civil-rights movement and by the Democrat in the White House, Lyndon B. Johnson. Nixon’s swampy maneuvers helped defeat the Democrat Hubert Humphrey and secure the South as an electoral safe haven for more than forty years.