Tablet: Choosing the right strongman allies

Israel’s alliance with illiberal regimes can be necessary and justified but not when they embolden anti-Semitic dog whistles.

“Israel’s foreign relations are at a record high,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted in the Knesset in December. “There were 300 visits by [foreign] leaders to Israel this year. Presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, senators, leading members of parliament. A flood … We have great achievements in the world, including the Arab world that we never had before.”

This is a common talking point for Netanyahu, who has claimed repeatedly over the past year that he has expanded Israel’s foreign ties to unprecedented levels. But there is a flipside to it, a recurring theme in criticisms of Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cozying up to “strongmen.” From the newly elected Bolsonaro in Brazil, whose inauguration Netanyahu attended this month, to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish Premier Mateusz Morawiecki, world leaders are lining up to meet with Netanyahu. In fact, relations have so warmed with Poland and Hungary that their prime ministers are attending a summit in Jerusalem next month, along with the premiers of Czech Republic and Slovakia. Since not all of them are democratically inclined and some are outright human rights abusers and authoritarians, this is supposed to indicate that something is rotten in Jerusalem. Continue reading

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