Watching in horror, worrying for our US ally, with concerns of our own

The shameful Trump-inflamed assault on democracy has complex implications for an Israel whose leadership has partnered so closely with him, underlines fears for our rule of law

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a gas mask as he protests after storming the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a gas mask as he protests after storming the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

“The world is watching… Think what the rest of the world is looking at,” US President-elect Joe Biden lamented in his address to the nation on Wednesday, in which he demanded that President Donald Trump act immediately to order home the “extremists” he had incited.

Watching from Israel, Mr. President-elect, the mob attack on the US Capitol looked like a terrible blow to our mighty and beloved and vital ally, brought low not by outside foes but by forces from within.

Mercifully not a political assassination, with which both our countries are all too familiar. Mercifully, too, not an awful terrorist assault, with large numbers of fatalities, of the kind, again, with which both our nations have had to grapple in the recent past. But an event of cataclysmic proportions nonetheless — a direct attack on the heart of American democracy, inflamed, outrageously, by the defeated president. A nauseating effort to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, to thwart the will of the people. Sedition.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump had declared to his supporters earlier in the day, urging them on. “You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol as tear gas fills the corridor on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Saul LOEB / AFP)

We watched an attack, horrifyingly, by Americans, on America.

An attack stemming directly from the serving American president’s refusal to accept his electoral loss.

US President Donald Trump dances after speaking during a campaign rally for a Republican senator at Dalton Regional Airport, in Dalton, Georgia, January 4, 2021, (Evan Vucci/AP)

An attack incited by the president, countenanced by the president, in that he did not immediately utilize all the rhetorical and practical powers of his office to halt it.

An attack that the president, at least as of this writing, did not criticize.

An attack, indeed, whose core motivation — the false assertion that the incumbent’s reelection was stolen — Trump continued to justify and to stoke even when he belatedly, affectionately, told his supporters to go home.

Watching from Israel, we saw in horror, too, the ease with which the insurrectionists breached what Biden called the “citadel of liberty,” revealing a superpower’s security forces unprepared for a protest they knew was coming, as lawmakers gathered to affirm the president-elect’s victory.

Iranian protesters burn Israeli and US flags on June 8, 2018. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Watching from Israel, the unthinkable scenes were made still more unthinkable by our knowledge that our many enemies in this region, who of course are also America’s enemies in this region, were viewing these same scenes with delight.

Where we see dismal and dangerous internal disunity, they see opportunity.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol’s Rotunda on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Saul LOEB / AFP)

There are other thoughts running through this Israeli’s head, too.

Worries for the resilience of our own rule of law, born of the ongoing efforts by our leader — silent on Wednesday night — to discredit some of the pillars of our democracy. Not parallel concerns, but echoes and fears raised by the events unfolding in the distant capital city of our closest, most important ally.

Worries, too, prompted by the extent to which our leadership has partnered so closely with a president who is ending his term so shamefully. This after all, is a president deeply, personally divisive to Israelis, passionately reviled and adored, who has overseen a long series of widely appreciated policies, from his recognition of Jerusalem as our capital to his brokering of four new normalization processes. Not fresh anxieties, these, for an Israel deeply reliant on bipartisan US support, but much exacerbated now.

But finally, watching from Israel, as night fell in DC and Wednesday gave way to Thursday in Jerusalem, we worried that what Biden termed an unprecedented assault on US democracy was not over.

Police with guns drawn watch as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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